Les Talvio has long dreamed of providing a stable, supportive home for kids who have not had that in their lives.
As the executive director of the Cyrus Centre drop-in facility for at-risk kids – many of whom are homeless – Talvio has heard some heart-breaking stories and has had to turn away far too many kids from the limited emergency-shelter beds that are provided there.
Now, some of those kids will get to experience the home that Talvio has always imagined for them.
Over the last six months, a group of dedicated volunteers and generous donors have been working to make Cyrus House a reality.
Starting in September, the home – at a location in Abbotsford that Talvio wants to keep private – will provide a nurturing family environment to four kids at a time under the age of 19 who cannot live with their own families.
A married couple has been hired as the “house parents” and will provide guidance, support and role modelling to youths who aren’t ready to live on their own.
The selection process for the young tenants will begin at a later date.
The pair will help the kids with things that parents typically teach their kids – for example, how to cook, clean, grocery shop and do laundry; how to open a bank account; and how to handle day-to-day issues.
One of the key goals is to prepare them for independent living.
Talvio said that for some of these kids, even sitting down as a group at the dining room table will be a new experience.
He emphasized that no formal programs will be offered at the site.
“They (the kids) will be loved and cared for and nurtured … and skills instilled in them. It’s going to be a family. It’s going to be a home.”
Support from dozens of people in the community have helped make the project a reality.
It started with the Klassen family of Abbotsford. They own and operate Valley Pulp and Sawdust Carriers and are known for their many charitable endeavors, including prior contributions to Cyrus Centre.
Travis Klassen said the family owns some investment properties in town and, when they heard about the plans for Cyrus House, they had a rental home they thought might work.
The family, which is in the process of setting up its own foundation for future charitable projects, donated a 10-year lease for the 3,500-square-foot house.
Travis said the family was excited to support a project that would provide a stable environment for at-risk kids.
But the home “needed a lot of love,” Talvio said.
Enter Adam Woods, owner of Tundra Developments. He read an Abbotsford News article that mentioned the project and the need for donations of materials and labour.
Woods researched the work of Cyrus Centre and was shocked to learn about the number of kids living on Abbotsford’s streets. He wanted to help.
Woods contacted everyone he could think to contribute to the renovations and, in the end, more than $200,000 worth of materials and labour were donated.
He estimates that about 80 tradespeople and other volunteers contributed their time for tasks such as installing new floors, replacing all the doors and windows, patching walls, adding a fresh coat of paint, installing appliances and landscaping.
Not one penny was charged to Cyrus Centre.
Next up for the facility is a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at Creekside Centre, 35131 Straiton Rd., starting at 6:30 p.m. All the costs of the event – including food and entertainment – are being covered by the Klassen Foundation, so that all donations from the gala can go straight to Cyrus House.
To attend, visit cyrushousegrandopening.eventbrite.ca or call 604-853-1075 for more information.
For more information about Cyrus Centre or Cyrus House, visit cyruscentre.com or call 604-859-5773.