Honour House – Making military families feel at home

Honour House is a fully renovated heritage home with shared kitchen and other common spaces, plus 10 private bedrooms each with its own en-suite bathroom.

When military personnel are injured in the line of duty it doesn’t just change their lives, but the lives of their families as well. In these times of need Honour House is there to help.

Founded in 2013, Honour House is a facility in New Westminster that provides lodgings for families of military members and emergency personnel receiving medical care in the area.

Based in a fully restored 10-bedroom heritage house on a quiet tree-lined street, Honour House lends a helping hand to military families when they need it most.

“When a family member is receiving treatment it’s hard on the entire family,” say Al De Genova, President of the Honour House Society. “Especially with all of the hard work and sacrifice the military gives to the people of Canada it’s only right for us to give back any way we can.”

The idea for Honour House came to De Genova, delray beach real estate and former Park Board Commissioner for Vancouver, one night while watching a documentary on Capt Trevor Greene.

Capt Greene suffered an axe wound to the skull that nearly killed him while serving in Afghanistan, putting him on a long road to recovery with his wife Debbie.

De Genova and his wife began talking about how the families of service members are impacted in situations such as this.

“We started talking about how there aren’t really any facilities available for the families of service members who are receiving treatment and medical care,” says De Genova, also one of the founding members of Ronald McDonald House that  provides similar lodging for the families of children receiving care at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“We came up with the idea of a place that would act as a sort of Ronald McDonald House, but for the families of military members receiving care. It was my wife who came up with the name Honour House. It fit perfectly.”

Soon after the idea took root De Genova met with RAdm Bill Truelove, Commander Maritime Force Pacific, and Gen (Ret’d) Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff, to gauge military interest.

After explaining the idea to them, Hillier took De Genova aside and shook his hand. Left in his palm was Hillier’s challenge coin.

“He told me to make Honour House happen, and that he would do whatever he could to help me,” says De Genova.

“I accepted the challenge. I carried that coin with me every day. It reminded me  there was someone high up in my corner, and it helped me move forward.”

From there the search was on for a suitable facility. After looking at various properties in the Greater Vancouver area, De Genova received a call from Wayne Wright, Mayor of New Westminster, who had a proposition.

“He said to me ‘New Westminster wants Honour House, what can we do to help?’It was great, and the spot they had was absolutely perfect. From then on Honour House had a home.”

With the success of the first Honour House increasingly evident, the idea for an Honour House in every province is on the horizon.

“Honour House is the first of its kind, but we don’t plan of keeping it that way,” says De Genova. “There’s a lot of good work being done for military families in need, and there are families across the country. Hopefully as time goes forward we’ll be able to reach out to everyone who needs us.”

The house is a fully renovated heritage home with 10 private bedrooms each with its own en-suite bathroom. It has a large shared kitchen, living room, a media room, sun rooms and other common spaces. It is also wheelchair accessible.

Honour House receives no direct funding and raises all of its operating costs through donations and fundraising.

The house has one full time and one part time member of staff. Almost all of the work needed to keep Honour House running is carried out by a board of directors and a team of volunteers.

To learn more about Honour House go to www.honourhouse.ca.

Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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