Lonicera Hall receives funds for long awaited porch renovations

ST. STEPHEN – The board of directors for Lonicera Hall are thrilled to have been able to raise enough funds to be able to complete the much-needed renovations on the front porch area of the building. The seniors’ residence was set to close just a few short months ago, but thanks to fundraising, along with donations from the Rotary Club, the Province of New Brunswick, the Town of St. Stephen, and the Mildred and Tom Irvine Foundation, the board is now in talks with contractors and hope the work can begin as early as September.

Lonicera Hall Administrator Trudy Higgins said now funds have been raised, the building committee will take over and begin the search for contractors. A total of $151,000 was raised for the project, which will include refurbishment of the front porch area and the addition of ramps for the mobility challenged.

“We got $50,000 that was a matching grant,” said Higgins. “We got $10,000 from the town. With the money that we got from the Rotary Club in the beginning, plus the money that we raised from various projects, we raised, ourselves, $41,000. Then, we had $50,000 from a bequeathment from a foundation. The last quote that we had done was $132,000. We’re praying that we won’t run out. The price of lumber is crazy. But, we’re over the moon excited, and can’t thank Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace (Minister of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture) enough.”

Higgins said the work on the front porch will involve the entire wrap-around deck, both sides, and the upstairs section of the front porch. There will be ramps added to make it easier for residents to enter through the main door. Higgins said the board is “beyond excited” to be able to make this renovation project happen.

Bill Francis, secretary of the Lonicera Hall board of directors, said the entire front porch area is in “dire need” of a new roof and cement columns, as well as a lot of work on the porch itself. Francis, who is also an executor for the estate of his aunt and uncle, Mildred and Tom Irvine, said when the board was seeking funding, he approached his cousin, who is also an executor of the estate, and said he felt his aunt and uncle would have wanted funds to go towards renovations to the seniors’ residence.

“Mildred wanted to go to Lonicera Hall, but was not able to because she needed proper care that we don’t offer at Lonicera. She wanted to go there and she wanted to be involved, but she couldn’t because she needed extra care. That’s why she ended up in a different institution,” said Francis.

Francis went on to talk about his aunt and uncle, both teachers who graduated from Acadia University. Originally from Halifax, they moved to St. Stephen in 1978, and lived here for more than 30 years. The couple had no children, and they were wise investors. They often made large donations to the IWK, as well as funding two scholarships at Acadia University and being involved with True Patriot Love, a charity for family members of military veterans.

“Tom died about four or five years ago,” said Francis. “Mildred just passed at the end of May last year. We were looking for some funding. I approached my cousin who is the other executor, and said I think my aunt, and Tom as well, they’ve done a lot of things around the town. They were always involved with the hospital and other issues in the town. I said, ‘I think $50,000 would be a nice gift from her foundation. I went to the board and said, ‘I think there is money there if you can find up to $50,000, our foundation would match it. They got $50,000 from our province, and it’s going to be well-spent. Now, the Tom and Mildred Irvine Foundation is going to match that.”

Francis said they hope to have a cheque in their hands very soon. One of the conditions of the grant from the province is that all work must be completed by March, 2022. So, the board is now in the process of speaking with contractors and they hope to get the front section of Lonicera Hall “fixed up and ready and brought up to standards”.

“We’re really pleased that the province came through the way they did, and I’m very pleased that we moved forward with the Mildred and Tom Irvine Foundation as well. They’d be very pleased. They lived over 30 years in our town. They were very active and enjoyed it very much,” said Francis.

Gerald Ingersoll, another board member and chair of the committee that will look after hiring the contractor and the development of the project, said the foundation area under the veranda needs to be renovated, and they also need to repair the deck and porch roof. He is looking forward to having this work done so residents can continue to enjoy living at Lonicera Hall.

“We’re in negotiations,” said Ingersoll. “We’re very, very happy that we can do this. It’s a beautiful building. To restore that beautiful veranda for another couple of generations, it’s a great opportunity.”