REGINA, SK. – A group of contractors, builders, suppliers and skilled trades in Regina, Sask., are banding together to embark on a labour of love.
Despite a downturn in the local economy, which has resulted in roughly 3,000 jobs being lost in the area’s construction sector, more than 60 builders and trades are forging ahead with a project under the Build Love banner to renovate the home of Bonnie Gorski, a 50-year-old with multiple sclerosis.
They are supplying the materials and donating their time at no charge. Cost of all the work will be around $500,000.
The project is a major renovation that entails changing the footprint of the entire home so that Bonnie, who doesn’t have the use of her legs, will be able to move independently throughout the home.
The home is a bi-level with a sunken living room, so she is restricted when her husband, Stuart, her primary caregiver, isn’t home. She is completely reliant on him and presently has no quality of life.
“When we learned about Bonnie’s challenges, from a lifestyle and construction perspective, we recognized that we had the capability to eliminate those challenges that are really diminishing her quality of life,” says contractor Derek Wu, managing partner of Collaborative Construction who formed Build Love with Brandon Fuchs, president of Superior FD Contracting, another Regina contractor.
“Bonnie has lived with multiple sclerosis for most of her adult life, and in recent years her mobility has progressed so aggressively that her living situation was really nearing the point of unlivable. Without this renovation she would be facing the inevitability of moving permanently into a long-term care facility.”
This is the second project in Regina for Build Love, a volunteer organization with a goal of improving lives and strengthening the community through meaningful acts of empathy, compassion and collaboration. The organization renovated another home last year for another family in need.
Bonnie also receives help from her son who lives at home. He works evenings so he’s able to help her in the morning. Her husband comes home at lunch to help her, but in-between she can’t get around.
“I just kind of sit and wait for someone to help me,” she says. “I don’t get to go out on my own because I don’t have accessibility to the front yard or the backyard, so I have to have somebody with me.”
Bonnie and her husband will leave their house July 5 and stay at a furnished rental house that has been provided by a landlord. Renovations are expected to take several months.
“I feel like I won the lottery,” she says. “But a lottery is just money and you can’t buy this kind of love and compassion and care that this foundation brings to people. They are truly setting the foundation for something great and I really think that they’re really inspiring other people to do the same.”
Bonnie doesn’t know exactly what’s planned for her house.
“All I know is they’re going to make my house accessible so I can get outside and get around. Right now, I currently just sit in one spot all day.”
Bonnie is in the process of getting an electric wheelchair, but would still face problems moving around because of the sunken living room. The hallway and bathroom are also not wide enough for a wheelchair.
“It’s difficult,” she says.
But, the folks from Build Love paid her a visit in May and, within 10 days, let her know she’d been selected to have her house renovated.
Build Love was formed in 2018 by a group of Regina based entrepreneurs as an annual campaign to provide a major home renovation to a local family with non-typical challenges to improve their quality of life.
Wu said builders and trades involved in the project are eager to get started. The project will be challenging, due to the extensive interior and exterior renovations that will be required.
“We’re changing the footprint of the entire home because the currently functionality of the house restricts Bonnie to a completely sedentary lifestyle,” he says. “We’re creating new living spaces that bring the outdoors indoors because we learned that what she really wants the most is to enjoy the little things in life again, moments as simple as listening to the birds and feeling the sunshine.”
Wu says that unification of rooflines and floor levels will be challenging because of the bi-level layout of the home.
“She needs to have the ability to move independently throughout the home and we have to consider that her MS will continue to progress, meaning her mobility will continue to decline. We’re designing for functionality and adaptability for challenges she may not currently have that she may face in the future.”
Wu says the team will be taking most of the interior down to the studs and installing new wiring. A front veranda will be added along with a covered deck which will be attached to the roofline, and a lower deck section as well.
“It’s a hefty renovation. We also have to create that basic unification of the floors and eliminate some stairs.”
Wu says the trades and local building community have embraced the project, despite the recent downturn.
“We are community-based as far as our trades go and we’ve had an absolute great response from everybody, all of which are donating their time, their skill, labour and materials.
“The builders and trades that are involved in Build Love really model leadership in business and the community.”