SUDBURY -- Few have been hit harder during the pandemic than long-term care homes. Now, Sudbury's St. Joseph's Villa is looking for community support to help raise money for its Caring Beyond Capital Campaign.

The goal is to raise $4.2 million to fund a three-year retrofit program. The retrofit includes $1.2 million for a new roof, heating upgrades, ventilation and air conditioning, windows, beds and mattresses, kitchen and bathroom equipment, chairs and blanket warmers, among many other essential accessories.

“Last May when COVID hit, we were actually, unfortunately, the first home in our area to have COVID enter our building,” said Jo-Anne Palkovits, CEO at St. Joseph’s Villa.

"We actually lost a resident that time. It was devastating. That was the first resident to die within the Sudbury-Manitoulin area and during that time our roof started to leak -- leak badly to the point where it was actually coming into the building and affecting resident rooms and staff areas."

Palkovits said the funding the home receives from resident fees and the Ministry of Long-Term Care covers basic costs such as personal care, food, staffing and accommodations.

“As a not-for-profit organization, we have consistently run balanced budgets as prudent managers of the public and donor dollars," she said. "However, we have no sources of capital funding except for compassionate donors.”

Private-sector donations

To date, the campaign has raised close to 75 per cent of its target through public- and private-sector contributions.

“We’ve received $1.8 million from the federal and provincial governments, $500,000 from the City of Greater Sudbury and in excess of $700,000 from corporations and individuals from across the region,” said campaign co-chair Celia Teale.

Linda Wilson, a former board member at St. Joseph’s Villa, said her late father was a resident at the home.

“The warmth, the caring, the compassion – everything," Wilson said. "They live their vision and mission. And to be able to contribute back to that and help through this campaign is an honour and a privilege."

It may not be on the list of upgrades, but a hidden cost is the challenge of trying to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To try and have meetings with business people or even with individuals is very challenging and to try and get that request out or that heartfelt ask out to people has certainly been very challenging," said Palkovits.

"I would say it has enhanced, certainly, the hours required to try to raise the dollars. So it’s a hidden cost but it’s certainly a very extensive cost. I don’t think people realize the thousands of hours that all healthcare workers are putting in trying to keep all our residents and staff safe. We work literally every single hour of the day.”

The need for enhanced ventilation and air circulation due to COVID allowed the home to receive funding from the federal government. Palkovits said the new HVAC system is set to be installed this summer.

The hope is to have all of the retrofits completed in the next three years.