David Love received a letter last month, that his almost 90-year-old mother was being evicted from an assisted living home in Woodstock.
Eleanor Love is one of nine seniors residing at the Women's Institute Home [WI Home] in Woodstock. She is being forced to leave the boarding house by June 1 because the facility can't afford to continue operating.
"Unless somebody steps in with big deep pockets and the ability to fill the rooms, the end of the month is coming and it's time to go," said David, who resides in Saint John.
When Eleanor's family learned about the closure, they dropped everything to find her a new place to live.
"She's getting up in years," he said. "She doesn't want to move."
Eleanor, who raised her family in Woodstock, moved to the WI Home more than two years ago following the death of her husband, David.
The home, which was put on the market last month and recently sold in a private-sale, can house 21 women at one time.
We're the ones that have lost something that we have looked after for 69 years. - Holly Hersey, former president of the New Brunswick Women's Institute
Over the last 10 years that number has dwindled.
Many of the women are from the Carleton County area and are between the ages of 70 and 90. Most of them are widowed.
Love said the home was a nice "in-between"step for his mom, who could no longer live at home by herself. But still didn't need to live in a nursing home.
"Mom really loves it there," he said. "She would stay there forever if she could."
His mom will move to Carleton-Place at the end of May, a facility for assisted living in Hartland, a town about 22 kilometres away.
Eleanor, who has been packing up her single-room into plastic totes bit by bit each day, isn't too keen on the move.
But she wasn't surprised by the closure either.
"It was sad but it wasn't unexpected," David said.
What is the WI Home?
The boarding house, which operates out of a large 105-year-old house on Chapel Street, has been around for almost 69 years.
It was founded and maintained by the New Brunswick Women's Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports women in local communities.
The house was initially designed for WI members who required accommodations. In the 1970s, they started accepting non-members as well.
At one point, the home had waiting lists so long, the group needed to add extra rooms.
"The ladies are well taken care of here," said Marion Briand, a supervisor at the WI Home, who has been working at the facility for 21 years.
The nonprofit, which consisted mostly of farmer's wives in rural New Brunswick at the time, settled on a boarding house in Woodstock because the price was affordable and the house was in a central location.
The ladies each have their own rooms but share washrooms facilities, the kitchen, dining area and sitting rooms.
Staff there prepare meals, do laundry, clean and make sure the facility is running smoothly.
There are also activities like singing, church services and Bingo that take place throughout the week for residents.
Briand has been working with the Department of Social Development to relocate the women.
At least one of the residents will be relocated to a nursing home after the closure.
"They're concerned," she said. "They don't know what the future lays for them."
Home needs 19 residents to stay open
Holly Hersey, former president of the New Brunswick Women's Institute, said the nonprofit group has been trying to find a way to stay open since August.
But the facility has been losing up to $6,000 each month and can't afford to keep operating. At the end of last year, she said the facility was running at a $35,000 deficit.
To stay open, she said 19 residents would need to live there to cover expenses.
The nine residents who do live there pay between $1,200 and $1,300 a month in rent, which almost covers the wages of the eight staff members who work there.
Hersey also blames COVID-19 for the closure because the 70 branches across the province aren't able to fundraise for the boarding house. And seniors aren't willing to move out of their homes in a pandemic.
"We're not closing because we want to," Hersey said.
WI Home does not receive provincial funding
The WI Home does not receive any provincial funding because it doesn't provide healthcare services.
Even if the WI Home could operate as a long-term care facility, Hersey said that would still cost more money and staff aren't trained healthcare professionals.
"We never wanted to be in the business of healthcare, we wanted to provide a home for the ladies that needed a home," she said.
Hersey said many people in the community are blaming the organization for the closure. Some people have also volunteered to buy the WI Home, but the group said it hasn't received any official offers.
"We're the ones that have lost something that we have looked after for 69 years," Hersey said.
'It gave them a home'
Ray Kierstead, a former town councillor, said he was shocked when he learned the home was closing a few months ago.
"It's just one of those places you assume will always be there and was serving a purpose," said the Woodstock resident.
Kierstead's mother, Norma Trewan-Kierstead, resided at the home for seven years before moving into a nursing home. His mother-in-law was also a member of the Women's Institute.
Kierstead and his wife Barbara spent years fundraising for the home. In the past six years, they also held three concerts as fundraising events.
"You would've had to see the happy faces in there all those years to really appreciate the impact that it had on our community," he said.
"It gave them a home."