ANTIGONISH, N.S. - The journey is complete.
References to a ‘journey’ were made often during speeches as part of an official grand opening event for Parkland Antigonish, March 19.
The facility becomes the new home for the Sisters of St. Martha after more than 95 years at Bethany Motherhouse; which sits – for now – just across a driveway and parking lot.
“Parkland Antigonish is the first retirement living building in the province to incorporate three levels of care under one roof,” a release from Shannex, the company behind the new facility, read.
“Mary’s Court includes 25 licenced long-term care beds while Martha Place offers 19 assisted living and 42 independent suites, including 18 suites designated to be offered to members of the community.”
“As you remember, we have been on a long journey to this day,” congregation leader Sister Brendalee Boisvert said, as part of her speech. “The nursing home part of the Bethany Motherhouse was not equipped with a sprinkler system; this was a concern to us and our staff as well.”
Boisvert noted being contacted by Joe and Jason Shannon of Shannex who offered to build, own and operate a new facility for the sisters.
“For us, this was an answer to prayer,” she said. “To not have the responsibility for the ownership and staffing of a large facility will be freeing for us.”
Boisvert noted the next step was to involve the provincial government and while many meetings followed, “we were able to move forward to this day.”
Jason Shannon, President and COO of Shannex, said it was an “honour to be part of the journey” with the sisters.
“This is something the congregation has been working on for many years and it has been our pleasure to help make their dream a reality,” he said.
Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister, Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey, called it a “unique collaboration” which led to the opening.
“For more than 100 years, the sisters have done tremendous work for the Antigonish area and this new home is yet another example of their good work. Their partnership with Shannex has resulted in not just a new, safe home for themselves but the community as well,” Delorey said, referring to the 18 suites.
Talking after the speeches and subsequent ceremonial ribbon cutting, Boisvert said it’s an emotional day for her; a point which was evident during her time at the podium.
“I found myself a little emotional today as we gathered with all of these people who have been so helpful to us,” she said.
“I would say it’s like a ‘we did it’ day … it has been a wonderful day.
“And I truly feel like this community is behind us and we are all moving towards the future; I feel like we are in it together.”
Jason Shannon said the opening is a win-win-win scenario, noting benefits for the sisters, the government and community, and for Shannex.
“It’s a model we’ve been fortunate enough to have developed and have success with for our residents and families as they age over time,” he said. “It’s really a triple win for everyone.”
He noted the project, scheduled to open in February, was basically on time as it opened in early March.
“So pretty well on time and the budget was right on,” he said.
“The contractors did great workmanship; it’s tough, sometimes, finding the numbers [of workers] we wanted but, overall, we’re very pleased with being on time, being on budget and, I think, the quality speaks for itself. The sisters are very pleased which is the most important thing to us.”
In his time at the podium, Delorey talked about former NDP MLA and interim leader Maureen MacDonald, an Antigonish County native, bringing this project to his attention in the early days after he won his seat and his Liberal party went into power, in 2013.
“It’s one of the first files that came to me as the MLA for Antigonish,” he said. “I had an invitation to come and talk to the sisters about their vision and it has been a huge honour and privilege as the MLA to work with them and my colleagues in the Department of Health and Wellness to play the role I could play and participate in this journey.
“Most of the work and vision was with the sisters themselves. They worked, they established the partnerships and came forward with the proposal; government’s end was some policy adjustment to reflect the changing needs for the beds, for the sisters.”
As for the Motherhouse; now looking a little lonely after decades of use and vibrancy.
“We’re now putting out to tender for someone to come and, they call it, deconstruction,” Boisvert said, noting the idea is to save and use every piece of material still in good shape.
“Companies will come in and bid on that; all the wood that can be used, the bricks that can be used. And we hope, down the road, something special will be on that land.
“Part of what we do is provide a contemplative area for people to walk. We haven’t figured it out yet but we’re in the dreaming phase of that … what to do on that land?”