Protest calls for re­ver­sal of de­ci­sion on group homes

T.J. McDon­ald Achieve­ment Home in Burin one of three fa­cil­i­ties set to close


It was kind of ironic. While a protest against the clo­sure of a group home in his district was oc­cur­ing at his con­stituency of­fice, Burin-Pla­cen­tia West MHA Clyde Jack­man was in the process of be­ing shuf­fled by Pre­mier Tom Mar­shall to the very depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for the change.

In one of sev­eral ma­jor moves Thurs­day, Mr. Jack­man was shifted from the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and re­places Paul Davis as the new min­is­ter of Child, Youth and Fam­ily Ser­vices.

Fol­low­ing in the steps of Grand Falls-Wind­sor and Stephenvil­le, where group home con­tracts have also changed hands to a pri­vate­ly­owned com­pany, Blue Sky Fam­ily Care, roughly 70 people at­tended a de­mostra­tion in Burin over the lunch hour Thurs­day.

One af­ter the next, speak­ers took to the mi­cro­phone and called on Mr. Jack­man to show his sup­port for the people in his district, un­aware that he was be­ing shifted to the new port­fo­lio.

The T.J. McDon­ald Achieve­ment Home is among three sim­i­lar­ly­op­er­ated fa­cil­i­ties in the prov­ince

Dur­ing a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view, Mr. Den­nis said his wife, who he af­fec­tion­ately called Belle, used to love to walk the beach to be near the ocean and pick up rocks to bring back to her gar­dens.

“She was the ar­chi­tect and I was the labourer, but she’d work right along with me on many of the projects, and she en­joyed her gar­dens right up to the very end,” he said.

“My wife got some of the best care that she could have got­ten any­where from the doc­tors and nurses in this prov­ince. These people try ev­ery­thing to as­sist you and get you through it.”

Mr. Den­nis be­came very lonely af­ter he lost his life’s part­ner. He put their property on the mar­ket and moved back to his home prov­ince of On­tario to be near fam­ily.

How­ever, it didn’t take him long to re­al­ize that New­found­land was where he needed to be – back to the home and gar­den where he’d found com­fort, peace and con­tent­ment.

“I was only up there about three weeks when I knew I wanted to be back here. We’d been com­ing to New­found­land since 1960. It’s a nice quiet, coun­try liv­ing. It’s home.”

Mr. Den­nis con­tacted the real es­tate agent and asked that his home be taken off the mar­ket.

Once set­tled again in New­found­land, he de­cided to open a bed and break­fast, which would al­low him to share his late wife’s gar­dens with guests from all over the world.

While her brother continues to live in On­tario, Mrs. Ansell moved to New­found­land al­most a year ago to live with her fa­ther. While he tends the gar­dens, she looks af­ter the fi­nan­cial as­pect of the bed and break­fast.

“I wanted to be with him for the com­pany and to give him a hand at the busi­ness,” she said.

By mid-May, there are usu­ally about 2,000 daf­fodils in full bloom in var­i­ous gar­dens on the property.

Mr. Den­nis and his daugh­ter came up with the idea of invit­ing people to come pick their own daf­fodils and make a do­na­tion to the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety’s Daf­fodil Place in St. John’s. The first an­nual Come Pick a Daf­fodil event is sched­uled at the bed and break­fast grounds this Satur­day and Sun­day.

Dur­ing the fundraiser, tick­ets will also be sold on var­i­ous items do­nated by lo­cal businesses with prize draw tak­ing place 3:30 p.m. Sun­day af­ter­noon. The fam­ily is also host­ing a bar­be­cue, thanks to com­mu­nity sup­port, from noon-4 p.m. each day.

Mr. Den­nis said both he and wife stayed at Daf­fodil Place on many oc­ca­sions when she was be­ing treated for her cancer.

“The cancer pa­tient and their spouse has the abil­ity to re­late to other people go­ing through the same thing ... you are able to trade in­for­ma­tion, which is a great thing,” Mr. Den­nis said of the ben­e­fits of the fa­cil­ity.

Mrs. Ansell said her mother was to­tally de­voted to her fam­ily.

“Mom loved to knit and to sew. She was very eco­nom­i­cal. When I was lit­tle, the first bit of clothes that mom bought for me was when I was 13. Be­fore then, she made all my clothes.”

Mrs. Ansell said Mother’s Day weekend is a great time to hon­our her mom’s mem­ory and raise money to fight cancer.

“Some of my mom’s favourite people were from Daf­fodil Place in St. John’s. I know she’d be happy know­ing that do­na­tions from her daf­fodils will be go­ing there.” Mr. Den­nis couldn’t agree more. “I know Belle would be happy about me open­ing up the bed and break­fast be­cause that’s some­thing we thought about do­ing be­fore she be­came sick,” he said.

“It’s re­ward­ing now that I’m able to show people her gar­dens and to hold this an­nual daf­fodil event. We be­lieve this is some­thing she’d re­ally like. It’s our way of pay­ing back.”

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