A year ago, Twyla Gendron was wondering how she was possibly going to be able to afford to stay in her home. Now, thanks to the generosity of both friends and strangers, she’s preparing to celebrate the completion of a brand new basement apartment in her Cliffside home, which will enable her to meet her mortgage payments and start to concentrate on her health, friends and family.
Though she said she’s not out of the woods yet financially, she feels she’s no longer drowning in debt. A big part of that is due to the organizational efforts of her friends Heather Healey and Janice Dunk. When the two realized Gendron’s situation, they sprang to action, contacting friends and media, trying to raise the money to build the basement apartment and take the mortgage pressure off. By the time the campaign ended, donors from around the world had pitched in tens of thousands of dollars, and Scott McGillivray, host and producer of the television show Income Property, stepped in and donated his time and crew to complete the construction, for free, between filming episodes of the show.
“It’s been an amazing process, and I am really just awed and humble and grateful,” said Gendron.
Her fortune has turned 180˚ from the past few years: in 2002, Gendron’s husband became critically ill and never recovered enough to go back to work. The couple moved from the Beach to a smaller home a few years ago, shortly before she lost her job of over two decades. Soon after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but while waiting for chemotherapy and radiation treatments, her husband became severely ill, passing away less than two weeks after being hospitalized. Eventually, money ran out and what she was earning from multiple part-time jobs was not enough to pay the bills.
That was when her friends stepped in with the first campaign. A relatively small group of friends raised more than $11,000 to tide Gendron over, but eventually that ran out, and the basement apartment idea was floated as the best way to help consistently cover mortgage payments. By the time McGillivray stepped in, just over $24,000 had been raised in the second campaign.
“The process has been marvelous and stunning and astonishing, and I’m not even sure if I’m digesting a lot of what’s happening,” said Gendron, admitting that beyond all the good that has come her way, she is sometimes reminded how close to the surface the loss of her husband remains. Not that she has much time to dwell on that, with a six-day work week and two jobs.
“I’m on the ‘Freedom 95’ program,” she joked.
A recent checkup with her doctor brought more reason for good cheer – there’s no sign of cancer anymore, at least for now. Gendron pointed out that cancer is seen as more of a chronic disease than a death sentence these days, though she keeps in mind that “you’re only in remission until it reappears. I’m just really taking it one day at a time.”
Through it all, Gendron has remained incredibly humbled and thankful for all that her friends and former neighbours have done for her.
“This is what the Beach is all about … this is community, and this community really rallied behind me.”