By Chris Marchand
A Winnipeg facility offering affordable accommodations for residents of rural Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario who are undergoing medical treatments in the city is hoping to boost awareness and funds for its ongoing operations.
A Port In the Storm’s Stacey Grocholski and Lawrence Traa gave a presentation at a recent meeting of the Dryden Rotary Club to speak about their mandate of reducing the financial burden of serious illness for those who have to travel to Winnipeg.
Lawrence Traa became a board member at A Port In the Storm after a lengthy battle with cancer, a battle he says he had the strength to win with the help of a safe, clean and cheap place to call home in over a year of chemotherapy treatments.
“I couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel room for 14 months,” said Traa. “And it’s not a home. Am I going to eat in the cafeteria every day? A Port In The Storm was a home away from home. My family could come in on the weekends and stay if they wanted. I could relax.”
A Port in the Storm was founded by oncology nurses Joanne Loughery and Patricia Benjaminson who were moved to act after seeing rural families struggle to cope financially with a cancer diagnosis.
Around 13 per cent of the facility’s clientele are from the Northwest, with almost half of those patients hailing from Kenora. Dryden patients make up about 9 per cent of those residents who are dealing primarily with cancer, but also surgeries, cardiac care, renal issues, or high-risk pregnancies.
Staffed by 60 volunteers and two staff, the 14-suite A Port in a Storm has been operating for five years and has helped 850 clients with near 100 per cent occupancy. While clients pay $58 per night — that’s $32 less than the facility’s operating cost which they make up with donations. The average stay is 22-25 days.
“We have people come in from Kenora and from the Far North — they range from cancer patients, heart patients. It’s closer for them to come to Winnipeg than it is for them to go to Toronto and they find it’s not as big and expensive as Toronto.”