Andy’s House, a residential hospice located in Port Carling, has been in the works since 2012, and now after years of planning and fundraising, the facility is expecting its first ever resident in just a few weeks.
Andy’s House is named after OPP Constable Andrew Potts, who died in a collision while responding to a service call with his partner Constable Matt Hanes in 2005. Hanes was seriously injured but survived the collision, which occurred after their cruiser struck a moose on Muskoka Road 169. The following year, Hanes and Andy’s father Bob Potts hosted a golf tournament, which led to the creation of the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation. The foundation partnered with Hospice Muskoka with the hope of one day opening a residential hospice for the southern and western portions of the region. Their goal has come to life through Andy’s House, and Hospice Muskoka is planning to accept their first resident at the facility on Oct. 13.
Sandra Winspear, executive director of Hospice Muskoka, said it’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing their longtime dream of creating the residential hospice come to fruition.
While they won’t be able to host a grand opening and they’ve had to push their ribbon cutting ceremony until spring, Winspear said they’re happy to be able to open to residents soon and help address the local need for end-of-life beds. They also got the chance to showcase years of work to the public by offering tours of Andy’s House on Sept. 24, 25, 28 and 29.
“We could never have done this without the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation, and it’s just a tremendous tribute to the fine man and officer that Constable Andrew Potts was,” Winspear said. “People are just so taken with the home-like comfort of the building, the quality of the craftsmanship, and the fact that they walk in and they just feel like they can release their tension.”
Andy’s House was supposed to open on Oct. 1 after their spring opening was postponed, but staffing changes delayed the process. While the pandemic has caused a number of hurdles in opening the residence, the entire staff has now been hired and the team is working to finalize contracts for equipment and supplies along with finalizing their funding agreement with the Ministry of Health. Any additional delays in the process could mean a later move-in date for their first resident, but they’re hopeful that they’ll be able to open their doors mid-October as planned.
For the first phase of opening, Andy’s House will receive funding for three end-of-life beds, and many staff members are excited that they’ll be able to focus on just three residents because of the quality of care they’ll be able to provide, Winspear said. Though there isn’t a specific timeline in place, Hospice Muskoka is working to expand the number of end-of-life beds available at Andy’s House while also looking to implement their dream of creating a supportive housing program.
“Most hospices open their facility to individuals with a prognosis of under three months. Because it’s a small place, you don’t want to have individuals here for longer periods of time in an end-of-life bed when there may be other people waiting on a waiting list,” Winspear said. “The average length of stay in the province of Ontario is about 15 days I would say, and so we want to work with the ministry to carve out a supportive housing program for individuals who may have a longer pathway or trajectory with their illness but for whatever reason can’t stay at home and don’t require day-to-day nursing.”
For now, they’ll be accepting end-of-life residents that are referred through Home and Community Care, all the while ensuring that COVID regulations surrounding visitation and other aspects of their operations are followed. Once it’s safe to expand programming at the site, Winspear said Andy’s House will be a real hub of activity, serving not just Port Carling but residents across their service region.
“[Andy’s House] is for all of south and west Muskoka, and we will work in partnership with our northern partners at Hospice Huntsville and Algonquin Grace if we have space to take anyone that they’re not able to take,” she said. “It’s an integrated approach to meeting the needs of people throughout Muskoka, and there will be lots of other programs going on here.”
Hospice Muskoka continues to fundraise in support of the operations at Andy’s House, in part through their Buy a Brick campaign, which asks individuals or businesses to buy a virtual brick for $300. The virtual bricks will eventually translate to formal recognition at Andy’s House through the section of bricks at the base of the building. The staff at Hospice Muskoka estimates there are about 2,500 bricks, so their goal is to fill them all with the names of their supporters. They’ve sold well over 100 so far, and every little bit helps.
“When you put a lot of people together, it amounts to a lot, and we do need to continue to supplement the money that we’re given from the Ministry of Health because that only covers about 55 per cent of our operations,” Winspear said. “That community support is very much needed and very much appreciated and allows us to have the equipment and the excellence in staffing and everything that we need.”
Along with the Buy a Brick campaign, Hospice Muskoka recently launched the 500 Club for donors who contribute $500 annually for more than one year and general donations of any amount can be made through Hospice Muskoka’s website at any time.
“We appreciate anything, whether it’s a $10 donation or more,” Winspear said. “It all goes to help keeping our doors open and this place vibrant.”
Though the Andy’s Ride cycling event in the spring had to be postponed until next year, the foundation was still able to host their annual golf tournament in support of Andy’s House. It was originally cancelled due to the pandemic, but after some additional consideration, they were able to go forward with the 15th annual tournament thanks to Don MacKay and the rest of the team at Muskoka Highlands.
The event was at full capacity with 147 golfers enjoying beautiful weather on Sept. 17. The exact fundraising total hasn’t been calculated yet, but the event brought in at least $40,000 in support of Andy’s House, said Andy’s father and foundation committee member Bob Potts. Now, the team at the foundation is working to raise the last $200,000 needed to meet their overall fundraising goal for the facility.
“When this project is complete, we will be very close or at $3.5 million dollars that we will have raised and this has been all at the generosity of our community,” Potts said. “We’ve had so many people come alongside us and support this project that without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. And as much as $200,000 is sizable, we have everything to be thankful for that we are where we are and we just have this last piece to finish to make everything whole.”
The construction of Andy’s House was completed early in the year, so the additional funding will help cover the cost of interior items and supplies for the residence. Potts said it’s been absolutely overwhelming to see the community support for Andy’s House from so many people, including many that knew and worked alongside Andy.
“It’s been an amazing journey, and for Matt and for the other members of our committee, this has been just a very passionate undertaking to get this building to where it is and to know that it’s going to be used for community and for end-of-life care,” Potts said. “It’s a way for us to reach out to the community and give them the love and support that they have shown to us.”
To make a donation, or to learn more about Andy’s House, visit the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation and Hospice Muskoka online. For updates on future fundraising and events, follow Andy’s House, Hospice Muskoka and the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation on Facebook.