After an emotional journey for many the doors of Lennon Recovery House will open to its first residents on March 27, 2020.
“It was wonderful to hear the news,” Donnie Aitken of Souris said.
“I only wish Allea was around to hear it.”
Mr Aitken lost his daughter to suicide in 2015. Since that time he and his wife Jackie have advocated for better supports for people facing addictions.
Lennon House, a long-term recovery house for those battling addictions and mental health issues, is a project launched by Dianne Young in memory of her son Lennon Waterman who lost his life to suicide on 2013.
In her grief, Ms Young formulated the idea to find a facility in PEI where people could get the help so desperately needed.
Looking back on the last three years, she said at times it is unbelievable Lennon Recovery House has become a reality.
“I put all the grief that I have for the loss of Lennon into this house,” Ms Young said.
In 2017 she formed The Lennon Recovery House Association when the former Belcourt Centre, a Catholic retreat in South Rustico was given to her.
“By times it was quite overwhelming and hard because not everyone has the same vision or mission that I have,” Ms Young said.
“I’m glad I had the emotion and the drive to keep on going and to make sure this house came to be.”
Ronnie Nicholson joined the board of directors in September 2019.
He said the need across the Island is paramount.
“I am really excited,” Mr Nicholson, who is also a Three Rivers Councillor, said. “People are going to be given their lives back.”
He said the structure of the program, where residents will be part of the community, is a promising model.
“They need community involvement to reintegrate into society and they are going to be treated like human beings,” he added.
Once the doors are open, Ms Young’s focus will change from renovating the building to giving her all for the health of the residents.
Her role will be to oversee the staff and to take on duties as a peer support worker.
Being in recovery for over two decades, Ms Young brings with her the qualifications that will be most important to the residents.
“We don’t detox, we provide support, the support to do something productive,” she said.
“We are going to teach people skills to live life and regain relationships with their families.”
Vice President Donna MacIntyre joined the board in October of 2019.
“With close to 40 years in a clinical social work career mostly spent with Mental Health and Addictions Services helping children and youth with mental health problems and in clinical supervision/management team roles in Prince County I felt I could help,” the retired social worker said.
“The board and (Diane and staff) feel a strong sense of responsibility to open Lennon House, not only for those in need of a recovery home, but also to acknowledge the many volunteers and donors who have been so generous of their time and resources to assist with this heart-driven project.”
Three years of fundraising and renovations to the 80-plus year old building have come to fruition.
Lennon House is exactly what the Island needs to help bring people to recovery, Mr Aitken said.
“It is a very cozy, welcoming atmosphere,” he said.
“The kitchen is big and it’s commercial so the residents who are going to be there will actually learn basic life skills again so they can get back on their feet.”
Mr Aitken has spearheaded the annual fundraiser, ‘Thanks for Giving’ Island-wide bike rally for Lennon House, for the past three years.
Much of the funds went into helping renovate the building, but the event will continue, he said.
“Hopefully everyone will continue with the fundraising because there will be ongoing costs,” Mr Aitken said.
From the beginning it has been the fundraising efforts of communities and individuals across the Island that have brought Ms Young’s dream to reality.
Theresa Kenny of St Teresa’s initiated more than one fundraiser for Lennon House.
“I am very excited about the opening,” Ms Kenny said.
“It is so badly needed.”
Ms Kenny lost her son Kyle in 2016. He struggled for many years with addictions and subsequent mental health issues.
She said there are many people who have helped to open the doors of Lennon House.
“Dianne has done an awesome job and Islanders young and old alike rallied together to get the house open,” Ms Kenny said.
“It is tremendous to see the uniting of all Islanders and I can’t wait to see the results of opening the doors.”
When fully operational Lennon House will have 30 beds available to residents. For now they will open seven beds for female residents.
More than $300,000 has been raised through donations and hundreds of hours of volunteer labour has been employed over the past three years.
The third floor of the facility still has to undergo renovations before it can be open.
For the past couple of months the association members have been hard at work with a consultant hired by the province to get things in order.
The March 27 opening is only the beginning of better things to come, Ms Young said.
“I can see us in the future having a social enterprise here,” she said, noting gardens as well as other farming opportunities are among possibilities.
In a statement, from Health and Wellness, a spokesperson said they are awaiting the consultant report from Lennon House after which they will evaluate how they can further support the organization.