Building Jessica’s House

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This post is part of our series on the winning charities from the Aviva Community Fund and is provided by Cass Bayley, a member of the Jessica’s House Steering Committee from the South Huron Hospital Foundation. This multi-part blog series features the stories behind the charities who won the 2016 Aviva Community Fund contest and the impact they will make with each project across Canada.

In 2015, 22 year-old Jessica Hamather’s life was tragically cut short due to an extremely rare cancer. Jessica graduated with distinction from the University of Guelph with an Honours Bachelor of Science in June of 2015. Jessica was to continue her studies at veterinary college.  Cherished in the South Huron community, Jessica may be gone, but her legacy remains through a special project to help people living in the South Huron community by filling a recognized gap in healthcare.  Maria Hamther, co-chair of the steering committee believes strongly that this community hospice is an important goal for South Huron.

Insufficient residential hospice beds is a known issue in Huron County, and has been identified as a priority by the Local Health Integrated Network.  In February 2016, the Ontario Government announced funding for 200 new hospice beds in Ontario and Huron County was identified as the county ‘most in need’. Currently families in South Huron need to travel more than one hour to find hospice care.

Costing less than palliative care in hospitals, hospice care offers a comforting atmosphere for both the patient and their family in their final days. In Huron County, terminally ill patients receive end of life care in a hospital palliative-care until which costs more than double what it would cost in a hospice setting. Beyond the economics, a hospital setting cannot provide the intimate, caring environment that Jessica’s House can, and will provide.

Because of this intense need in the community, in March 2016, the South Huron Hospital Foundation made a decision to fund the expansion of palliative care resources including the creation of a small residential hospice. The South Huron Hospital slogan is ‘the little hospital that does’ and those five words are key to this story.

A steering committee was quickly formed and set an ambitious goal to raise $3 million dollars to build the hospice, to be called Jessica’s House, a priority need for the primarily rural region. In June 2016, the hospital foundation’s dedicated the annual gala fundraiser to raise money for Jessica’s House. Incredibly, more than $262,000 was raised in a single evening. The enthusiasm for the project gained momentum, and more than $2 million has been raised in the first year. On top of that, the number of in-kind donations is stunning and a very important part of the project. Notably, a local family donated the perfect piece of land in Exeter, and the shovel goes into the ground in April, one year after the project was initiated. This lot is located at the south end of Exeter and the plans are finalized to begin building next month.

Due to the overwhelming support from thousands of Canadians, Jessica’s House has been named one of the 2016 winners of the Aviva Community Fund, and was granted $100,000 to help us break ground and fulfill our mission to build Jessica’s House. But the campaign continues. Contributions large and small are making such an impact and is bringing this community together like never before. With a completion date of spring 2018, Jessica’s House will soon be a residential hospice for the County of Huron, and this welcoming home away from home is where people can go to live in their final days, surrounded by family and caregivers.

To learn more about the South Huron Hospital Foundation, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page. To learn more about other Aviva Community Fund winners, click here.

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