Parksville’s Forward House marked the completion of Phase 2 of a years-long accessibility project when it cut a toilet paper “ribbon” to open its newly accessible washroom Tuesday, May 1, 2018.
Forward House executive director Sharon Welch was joined by Parksville-Qualicum Beach MLA Michelle Stilwell in the cutting of the toilet paper, which took place on the deck that was built two years ago in Phase 1 of the project.
“We had Michelle Stilwell as a special guest two years ago when we put in the pathways, the deck and the double doors, so it felt appropriate to have her come back for this ceremony,” Welch told a crowd of sponsors, guests and Forward House clients.
The $15,000 Phase 2 was funded in part by a first-of-its-kind joint endeavor by the four Parksville and Qualicum Beach Rotary clubs.
“This is a historical moment,” said Welch, before introducing representatives Helen Dyck of Parksville AM Rotary, Bob Cummings of Parksville Noon Rotary, Gord Mebs of Qualicum Beach Sunrise and Michael Oleksiuk of Qualicum Beach Evening Rotary. “This is apparently the first time all four groups came together on a project, and we could not have done this without them.”
Welch said another $7,000 came through a grant-in-aid from the Regional District of Nanaimo, and the final $1,000 through sales of an art calendar created by Forward House clients.
The latest project phase created a wheelchair-accessible washroom by removing an existing bathtub from the ranch-style home, relocating and widening the door, and adding safety bars and a sink raised to accommodate a wheelchair.
In Phase 1, completed in 2016, Forward House had created a concrete pathway from the alley, replaced the back-door steps with a ramped deck, and added double doors to the rear entrance of the house.
“To all the volunteers, the Rotaries, the RDN stepping up to make this place better for everyone in the community, knowing the doors are open no matter what your level of ability, is incredible,” said Stilwell. “I give you kudos for recognizing the need.”
Welch said Forward House is already working to secure funding for Phase 3, which would make its Hirst Avenue front entrance fully accessible, as well.
“I remember coming to this house four years ago and thinking, ‘Wow, how do people get in and out?’” Welch said. “There were steps everywhere… I knew this was something we had to raise money for to address.”
Welch said she hoped Phase 3 construction could start as soon as this summer, but certainly by next summer “at the latest.”
A port-a-potty was placed in the back yard by DBL at no charge for the six weeks that Forward House was without a washroom, Welch said. She added that other local contractors provided reduced rates for the framing, plumbing and electrical work that was undertaken in Phase 2.