The Elks of Fort St. John made a final $8,000 gift to local seniors last week in support of plans for new housing.
The local Lodge No. 288 is shutting down and returning its charter this year, after being one of the first community service groups to form in the city some 75 years ago. The donation will benefit North Peace Seniors Housing Society and its plans to build Apartment 5.
“This is money we have left in our bank account. Instead of sending it out of the area, we’re giving the money to seniors housing,” said Orva Moore, who was exalted ruler of the lodge. “We felt it was a good place to put our money.”
The Elks have a long history of supporting Fort St. John seniors. They opened Sunset Home in 1966, the first independent living seniors housing of its kind in the city.
“They looked around and said whats needed in this community, and what can we do to give back,” said Moore.
“Many of our seniors were having to go away to get into care or into an apartment because there was nothing here for them. So they focused on that. They said, this is what we need, so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
That home, as well as the land at 110 Avenue and 98 Street, were gifted to North Peace Seniors Housing Society in November 1998, before residents were later moved out, and the building torn down for health and safety reasons.
The seniors housing society has held the land ever since, and plans to build a new four-storey independent living apartment block.
“The name Sunset Home will live on in that new building,” said society president Gail Weber. “Due to COVID, our fundraising has been put on hold. This is a big boost to us because it’s getting us into that mode again.”
The cost to build is estimated at $15 million, and Weber says the society has a good $1.3 million start on its fundraising because of the value of its land.
“If we had to buy a piece of land, it would put us that much further behind,” Weber said.
“Our mandate is affordable housing. If we don’t raise enough money to make it a workable mortgage, it won’t be affordable housing.”
The number of seniors living in Fort St. John has jumped 119% over the last 30 years, according to the city's research. There are about 200 people on seniors housing wait lists at any given time, and many still leave the city because of their lack of options.
“Our housing for these people is sadly lacking. So any organization, any business out there willing to help us reach our goal is helping all the seniors in Fort St. John live in a safe, comfortable, community living situation,” Weber said.
“We need to do something about it. We are trying, but we need help.”
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