The Greater North Foundation (GNF) cut the ribbon for the new and relocated Pleasant Valley Lodge last Friday, with several local and provincial officials on hand, including Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.
“A project of this size does not get done easily,” said GNF board chairman Lionel Cherniwchan. “There are many organizations and individuals who need to collectively come together to conceptualize, discuss and implement and finalize and idea. The end result we see here today.”
The GNF – previously known as the Athabasca County Foundation – was first established in 1984 and then as a management body in 1996. It owns and operates Lacalta Lodge in Lac La Biche, Wildrose Villa in Boyle and the new Pleasant Valley Lodge.
The original Pleasant Valley Lodge first opened in 1960. Berry Architecture & Associates and Keller Construction Ltd. coordinated construction of the new facility.
Cherniwchan extended a special thanks to Lac La Biche County for their sizable donation toward the project. “The county, themselves, contributed 54 per cent to the operating costs and the capital costs for our foundation, so thank you to Lac La Biche County.”
He also thanked several other entities for helping make the lengthy effort possible, including Athabasca County for their funding, the Town of Athabasca for the land and the Village of Boyle for its interim financing.
Former GNF board member Frank Crawford, who recently passed away, was also recognized by Cherniwchan, who said that Friday’s opening would have been a ‘dream’ for him. The lodge’s board meeting room will be named the Frank Crawford Conference Centre and a picture of Crawford will be erected on site.
Crawford was on the board for 50 years and worked on the home’s original site.
Sitting beside Stelmach was Alberta Minister of Infrastructure Ray Danyluk, who thanked Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson for inviting him, as he was excited to see what the final results of the construction would be.
“It very much holds true, what the premier has said … what the premier holds true to his heart, and that is the importance of infrastructure,” Danyluk said. “And his hope and his vision has been that we build the most advanced infrastructure in North America.”
Johnson commended Danyluk as one of the main people who made the Pleasant Valley Lodge’s reopening happen; a sentiment Cherniwchan echoed, joking that it helped to have someone ‘big and burly’ on their side.
Johnson also commented that Alberta has never had so much support from a premier for affordable housing for seniors as they do now.
With approximately 200 people on site for the opening, Stelmach was greeted with a standing ovation upon his introduction. The premier gave special thanks to the seniors for inviting him and his wife to the event.
Stelmach continued with the infrastructure theme of the afternoon, stressing the importance of building schools for the young and lodges for the aging.
“I can tell you, I haven’t visited one lodge, I haven’t visited one school or one hospital that was recently built that is sitting empty,” he said. “They’re all full to capacity, and that’s why we have to add at least a thousand beds a year for seniors in this province.”
“What better way to say thank you to our elders,” added Athabasca Mayor Roger Morrill, “than providing them with a comfortable place to call home?”