The estate of a late Port Alberni resident has donated more than $1.3 million to three different local charities.
Deanna Marilyn Horton (neé Fox) was born Sept. 30, 1937 in Port Alberni and died Sept. 8, 2019. She was a well-known volunteer for many events in the Alberni Valley, and she worked for Island Health at the old hospital site until her retirement.
After her death, her estate arranged for a donation of $1,350,000 to be split between three charities. The West Coast General Hospital (WCGH) Foundation, the Alberni Valley Hospice Society and the Alberni-Clayoquot SPCA branch will be receiving $450,000 each from Horton’s estate.
Chris Francey, business director for the WCGH Foundation, said that the donation pushed the foundation’s fundraiser for the emergency department expansion over its goal of $2 million. As a thank you, several areas in the department will be named after Horton.
“It was a very good gift,” said Francey.
Teresa Ludvigson of the Alberni Valley Hospice Society agreed. She said the society has lost nearly $300,000 of event revenue over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a really big blessing for us,” said Ludvigson.
Part of the funding will go towards the creation of a new child and youth grief and bereavement program. The Hospice Society originally planned to launch this program in 2020, but it was interrupted by COVID-19. The new funding will go towards furniture, program equipment and supplies and wages for a coordinator.
The program will provide one-on-one counselling and small peer support groups for children and youth in the Alberni Valley. It is new to the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, but Ludvigson says it was needed.
“In the last two years, things have really changed,” said Ludvigson. “For the first time, we have a wait list for grief and bereavement. People haven’t really been able to grieve the way they normally would. COVID has impacted all of us.”
Other funding will go towards supplies, staff training and upgrades at Ty Watson House, including roof and gutter repairs.
“Operationally, we’re making it safer, warmer and more comfortable,” said Ludvigson.
The SPCA, meanwhile, has plans to expand its services, including the construction of a new building in the near future.
“It’s a plan we’ve been working on for a while,” said branch manager Sam Sattar. “This [donation] tipped us over to get the ball rolling.”
All of the funding will be staying with the Alberni-Clayoquot branch, said Sattar. Some of it will be going towards the SPCA’s medical budget, which is largely funded by donations.
“Gifts of generosity like this are very humbling,” said Sattar.