New Westminster News Leader

Donation gives lift to Honour House

Honour House president Allan De Genova and Manley McLachlan, president of the British Columbia Construction Association, look over the home
Honour House president Allan De Genova and Manley McLachlan, president of the British Columbia Construction Association, look over the home's elevator, which is large enough to hold a gurney. The BCCA Foundation's first donation was to Honour House for $65,000 to help defray the $250,000 cost to build the lift in the four-storey building.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The elevator at Honour House is big and beautiful. It ought to be because it cost big bucks and was a big headache. The pain, however, was eased greatly Friday.

The B.C. Construction Association Foundation donated $65,000 to help defray the $250,000 cost for the elevator. The lift is big enough to hold a gurney making the New Westminster home—built to house first responders, armed forces and their families while they receive medical treatment—fully accessible.

Honour House president Allan De Genova said the original budget for the elevator was around $50,000. But the project’s engineers discovered there was a lot more work to bring it up to code as well as building it so it was seismically safe and at the same time make it able to do what they wanted it to.

“By the time we figured it out, it got to be big dough,” said De Genova. “It was frustrating in the early stages because we were pushing so fast to finish it.”

Honour House was built with a great deal of help from the Vancouver Regional Construction Association. So when the provincial body established a charitable foundation, De Genova went to its board seeking help and they were more than willing to do their part as well and make Honour House its first donation ever.

“It was an illustration of a very appropriate construction project that we wanted to support with the foundation,” said BCCA president Manley McLachlan.

Since paramedics, firefighters and police are the first on the scene helping out when there’s an accident at a construction site it also made sense to provide support to them and their families, McLachlan said. “We rely on those people heavily.”

Although Honour House has been open for guests since September 2011, De Genova said $1.2 million still needs to be raised to cover the $4.8 million it took to purchase and renovate the large St. George Street property that can accommodate up to 10 families.

“[Rising costs are what] happens when you get a great big, old home,” said De Genova.

He’s given himself a year to raise the rest, although he’s expecting to get at least $500,000 from an upcoming gala.

New Westminster resident Marg Gordon took over as executive director in July.

“We laugh, we cry, and we celebrate,” said Gordon of life at Honour House.

“The most touching moments seem to be at 7:30 in the morning. The conversation in the kitchen is the healing they do together. It’s an amazing, amazing place.”

She recalled one woman cried when asked about being able to stay at Honour House and then said, “I can’t even begin to tell you what this has meant for my family.”

Gordon said one family that really appreciated Honour House was that of Canadian border guard Lori Bowcock, an Ontario native who was shot at the Blaine border crossing Oct. 16 and taken to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster for treatment.

“We didn’t tell anyone they were here because they were besieged by the media every time they went to the hospital,” said Gordon. “They said they were in the middle of one of their toughest times and it was amazing everyone in New Westminster just reached out to them.”

She said the other guests responded to the family’s plight by making their breakfast every morning.

“[Honour House] makes everybody give. It’s a kind of pay it forward,” Gordon said.

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