SUDBURY -- A country singer is turning to the public for help in saving a beloved Manitoulin Island institution.

The Wikwemikong Nursing Home had been hoping for funds from the most recent call for applications by the Ministry of Long Term Care, but was shocked to learn they weren't on the list.

The facility is in urgent need of being replaced to meet new 2025 compliance standards and if they can't reach it by then, they say they'd have to close.

It was enough to spur Crystal Shawanda into action.

Shawanda immediately turned to a popular Facebook group called 'What's Doin on Manitoulin' and asked Islanders to write the minister of health a letter.

"I saw that they had shared the news on their Facebook page, the Wikwemikong Nursing Home page, I always keep up to date with everything that's going on there because I've always been socially engaged with the nursing home," said Shawanda. "When I was 10 or 11 years old, I would go to the community room and play piano or sing songs with my guitar."

Shawanda, speaking to CTV from Nashville, was shocked to see what had happened and immediately reached out to the home's administrator.

"Those are my roots and I still very much care about what happens there and on Manitoulin Island," she said.

Enlisted volunteers

Her post has been seen by hundreds of people and she's already enlisted several volunteers who have started writing their own letters.

"Crystal comes and sings there every year so, you know, it doesn't surprise me that she started and said I just can't sit there you know and not doing anything, I have to do something," said Cheryl Osawabine-Peltier, the home's administrator and Shawanda's cousin.

Osawabine-Peltier said this latest announcement has left them in limbo. A feasibility study they undertook in 2019 showed they would have to build something new to reach compliance standards.

The new standards will take effect in 2025 and if it takes two years to complete construction, that gives them three years to raise the necessary funds.

"I reached out to my contact at the ministry and he advised us the approvals they did make were focused on addressing infection control issues, specifically eliminating the wardrooms at long-term care homes, which is three or four beds shared in a room," said Osawabine-Peltier.

"And then he also told me there's no guarantee that they're going to do another call (for applications) next year, but there's no guarantee that they won't."

Left in limbo

The move has left the home in limbo as it tries to fundraise itself while waiting for word from the provincial government.

"We need to act now to be ready for then," said Algoma-Manitoulin MPP and NDP member Michael Mantha. "We've already reached out to the minister's office and bureaucrats and we've sent them the application. My office has been in contact with the Wikwemikong Home and we're trying to get a sense of what went wrong. If the application was a good one, a solid one, a sound one, then why weren't they granted with funding?"

Mantha said they provide a vital service to that portion of the Island for seniors of all types and backgrounds and it's in desperate need of being expanded.

He's hopeful all sides will be able to work with the ministry to find out when more funding will be released to make sure the facility gets the help it needs.

CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Long Term Care and was told while the application was not approved, it hasn't been rejected either.

In a statement, they write in part:

"The ministry received a large number of applications during the 2019 Call for Applications. Due to the volume of applications received, the ministry reviewed applications in accordance with a two-stage process. Among the criteria considered were how far along each project is, and how quickly each one would be able to bring new space online."

It goes onto say it will be investing $1.75 billion over the next five years to building new long-term care spaces.

In the meantime, those behind the letter-writing campaign are hoping for a Christmas miracle and that the seniors in Wikwemikong will get the answers they need soon.

"They really are like family there," said Shawanda. "We need to keep our elders home on the Island."