Jeneece Place gives kids a home away from home
(Above) Jeneece Place remains close to TELUS active and retired team members, many of whom continue to show their support by cooking meals for families and volunteering during TELUS Days of Giving.
Tucked into a corner of the grounds of Victoria General Hospital sits a building unlike the healthcare facilities that surround it.
With long wooden beams, floor-to-ceiling windows, stunning Indigenous artwork and beautiful outdoor spaces, Jeneece Place looks like a high-end bed and breakfast lodge. In reality, it’s a 10,000-square-foot house that welcomes families who need somewhere to stay when their child requires healthcare services – whether it’s because they live too far away to drive back and forth from their home for daily appointments, or because the child is facing an extended hospital stay.
To date, more than 2,700 families from all over Vancouver Island and surrounding islands have stayed in the home, which, with the community's hard work and generosity, was built by the Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, and aided by ongoing support from TELUS.
A very personal mission
Jeneece Place is named for Victoria resident Jeneece Edroff – who has since transitioned to Frankie Edroff but is comfortable with his former name and gender being used in the historical context of how Jeneece Place came to be. At just three years old, Edroff was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1, which affects multiple systems in the body, including painful tumours that grow along the nerves throughout the body.
Edroff received most of his treatments at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver – and there were many. Ongoing symptom management with specialists and numerous surgeries resulted in his family having to frequently travel between Victoria and Vancouver. Often, the Edroff family would stay at Ronald McDonald House, a charity-run facility that allows out-of-town families to stay close to their children when they’re in the city undergoing medical treatment.
Having his family nearby was a source of real comfort during Edroff’s tumultuous childhood, which was filled with traumatic hospital visits. Unfortunately, there was no place for families to stay on Vancouver Island.
When he turned 15 in 2009, he set an ambitious goal: to build a home-away-from-home in his hometown.
The idea took off. Just 14 months into a $5.5 million campaign to build the home, Edroff had already secured 95 per cent of what was needed from individuals and local organizations, including a one-million-dollar donation from TELUS.
Mel Cooper, Chair Emeritus of the TELUS Vancouver Island Community Board, was an early advocate of the proposal. His leadership quickly engaged the whole TELUS team, which, in turn, helped to drive the fundraising effort.
“It’s absolutely essential for smaller communities like Vancouver Island,” says Veronica Carroll, CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation, which owns and operates Jeneece Place, of the need for the facility.
“When you have a company like TELUS stepping in and really publicly supporting a project like this, the success of it is just so assured.”
(Above) Mel Cooper, Chair Emeritus of the TELUS Vancouver Island Community Board, and his wife, Carmela, were early supporters of Jeneece Place, helping to drive the fundraising efforts.
Committed to helping Islanders
As a global leader in social capitalism and committed to driving meaningful societal impacts, TELUS initially equipped the facility with televisions, computers and connectivity to ensure families can seamlessly keep in touch with loved ones, healthcare workers and other critical support services. In-kind support has continued over the years, including updating equipment and technology. Recently, the company stepped up to support North Island children and families, providing more than $100,000 in funding and in-kind services to Q̓ʷalayu House, Children's Health Foundation second home away from home.
“Since its inception, Jeneece Place has been a priority for TELUS. To make life a little easier for Vancouver Island families and children during very challenging times is a privilege. Our entire team continues to be deeply inspired by Frankie, and all those who help to make these homes a reality,” says Marshall Berkin, Vice-President, Industry Solutions at TELUS.
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Jeneece Place also remains close to TELUS active and retired team members, many of whom continue to show their support as volunteers during TELUS Days of Giving. Since 2000, TELUS, team members and retirees have contributed more than $900 million and 1.8 million days of service, equating to $1.4 billion in cash and in-kind value.
“They’ve come in and cooked meals for our families, weeded out the gardens and cut back shrubs or bushes over the years,” notes Carroll.
Today, thousands of children and their families have come to rely on Jeneece Place. It has 10 units, each one equipped with two double beds and an ensuite bathroom that can fit a family of four. It also has an enormous multi-family kitchen, children’s play and activity centres, and a multimedia space.
The occupancy rate is a strong measure of the facility’s success: pre-COVID, the house was at nearly 100 per cent occupancy, with a constant waitlist. While stays dropped during the pandemic, they are already back to 75 per cent and Carroll anticipates returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.
These numbers are proof the house fills an important need for Vancouver Island families, says Carroll, and she credits TELUS’ ongoing support of Jeneece Place as an essential piece of the equation.
“It's quite remarkable and it really speaks to the support for this project from TELUS,” she says. “It just demonstrates such long-term belief in the importance of Jeneece Place.”
To learn more about Jeneece Place, please visit islandkidsfirst.com/jeneece-place/. To find out more about how TELUS is connecting Canadian families and communities, go to telus.com/friendly.
(Above) In its decade of existence, Jeneece Place has been a temporary home to more than 2,700 families from all over Vancouver Island and surrounding islands.
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