A Home Away from Home for injured First Responders
Video: Allan De Genova, Founder of Honour House, shows the premises and tells the story of the First Responders´Home Away from Home,
If you are a rural firefighters and have ever gotten hurt on the job, you know how hard the recovery can be when needing to be hospitalized in the city far from your family. Honour House in Vancouver, BC offers a free place to stay for First Responders and their families while receiving treatment in the hospital.
Living in the country may have it´s perks, but sometimes when the stakes are high, you may find you need the city. And after an accident at work, only the best medical care is good enough - however, while medical treatment is free, staying for weeks or months on end in a hotel while going through complicated surgeries can be draining on both the economy, and the family.
In the early 2000s, this got Allan De Genova thinking about how to relieve families the stress of having to pay for their own stay while their first responder husband or wife recovered from injuries, PTSD or receiving therapy.
Eventually, the Honour House Society was born, an independent Non-Profit Society funded completely by charity and local fundraising. Allan De Genova is hoping his initiative will be the first of many around Canada, and perhaps spread throughout the rest of North America, and the world, as well.
Posted by Bjorn Ulfsson / CTIF NEWS
Honour House is a refuge, a “home away from home” for members of our Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans, Emergency Services Personnel and their families to stay, completely free of charge, while they are receiving medical care and treatment in New Westminster in the Metro Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada.
Located on a quiet tree-lined street in New Westminster, Honour House is a beautiful, fully renovated heritage home with 11 private bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. The house has a large shared kitchen, living room, a media room, sun rooms and many other common spaces. The house is fully modernised, wheelchair accessible and is set in its own extensive and lovingly maintained grounds.
Honour house receives no direct funding and raises all of its operating costs through donations and fundraising. The house has one full time and one part time member of staff. Almost all of the work needed to keep Honour House running is carried out by our dedicated board of directors and our hard working team of volunteers, many of whom have served their country themselves.
Allan De Genova, former Vancouver Park Board Commissioner and a twenty-six year supporter of Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House, was sitting at home one evening with his wife watching a Gemini Award winning documentary entitled “Peace Warrior” on television. The documentary told the harrowing story of Captain Trevor Greene of the Seaforth Highlanders. Trevor was attacked and seriously injured while deployed in Afghanistan and the story of his miraculous recovery is both incredibly moving and inspiring.
A Wounded Hero
Captain Greene was on patrol in Afghanistan with members of Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry as they attended a meeting with elders in the village of Shinkay. Honouring a local custom, Captain Greene had removed his helmet as a sign of respect and shortly afterwards a man struck him violently in the head, from behind, with an axe. Members of Captain Greene’s platoon shot the attacker before he could strike again but the attack was the signal for the start of an ambush and they came under heavy fire as they evacuated their critically wounded brother from the battlefield.
US Army Medics frantically fought to save Captain Greene’s life in the helicopter on the way back to Kandahar Air Field where doctors would perform several surgeries to successfully stabilize him. Captain Greene was then flown to an intensive care facility in Landstuhl, Germany and then on to facilities in both Alberta and BC as he continued his rehabilitation. All of this time his wife Debbie and their daughter Grace stayed by his side as he travelled on his long road to recovery. It was obvious from watching the documentary that Captain Greene’s family struggled to find and pay for accommodation as they stayed with him as he recovered and this touched the hearts of both Al and his wife and the idea for Honour House was born.
A Chance Meeting
Following a chance meeting with Canadian Chief of Defence, General Rick Hillier and Senator Larry Campbell at a Vancouver Canucks hockey game, Al shared his vision of a “home away from home” for our Military, Veterans and Emergency Services Personnel with them both and General Hillier presented Al with a challenge coin encouraging him to go ahead with his project and make Honour House into a reality.
Soon afterwards Al received a call from the Mayor of New Westminster, Wayne Wright, who encouraged Al and his committee to come to the Royal City as he felt that he had found a suitable property. As soon as Al saw the large home at 509 St. George Street in New Westminster he knew straight away that it was the “right one, a 9 out of 10” according to him at the time.
With the incredible help of the City of New Westminster, BC Housing, The Vancouver Regional Construction Association, The Royal Canadian Legion and many other supporters the dream began to look very much like it would become a reality. Several fundraisers were held including the much publicized “Helmets for Heroes” that took place in down town Vancouver and as soon as enough money had been raised in, April 2010, Honour House Society became the proud owners of the property.
The home had fallen into disrepair and it needed significant renovations before it could become a home suitable for our brave Canadians and their families. Over sixty companies and hundreds of individuals stepped forward and contributed materials and labour for the renovations needed to transform this former rest home into a home fit for heroes. Ten en-suite bedrooms were added, the roof was raised, an elevator was fitted and the whole house and grounds were made wheelchair accessible. The entire property was transformed and modernized, while still respecting the original heritage and character of the 1937 Georgian style home.
A Grand Opening
Under bright skies and witnessed by a large crowd, Captain Trevor Greene officially declared Honour House open on November 10, 2010. It wasn’t lost on anyone that it was Captain Greene’s determined recovery from his terrible life changing incident in Afghanistan that inspired those involved to find and create this very special house. On that opening day, the Canadian flag was raised alongside the Honour House flag and the house was officially opened.
There was still much more work to be done before the house would be ready for its guests and it would be a further ten months before Honour House would welcome its first family. The house, with the dedicated and tireless hard work of its board members, volunteers and staff and the support of local businesses and the general public continues to be an incredible success story that even Al De Genova couldn’t have dreamed of.
During the Society’s 2013 Gala, Al accepted yet another challenge, to put an Honour House in every Province in Canada so that all of our Canadian Heroes will always have a place to call home.