Villa Aubin finally has an elevator thanks to tireless lobbying

Claudette Desjardins in front of the newly installed elevator at Villa Aubin, a project she initiated in 2016 to help the senior residents who could no longer navigate the stairs.

After years of lobbying, the elderly residents of Villa Aubin Apartments in Sturgeon Falls finally have an elevator. The two-storey building is owned by the Nipissing District Social Services Administration Board (NDSSAB) and operated by the Nipissing District Housing Corporation (NDHC) for Seniors. The newly installed elevator, funded by the NDHC, will be fully operational once a final inspection has been completed.

The installation is a huge relief to residents who have lived there for years and have increasingly suffered the challenges of climbing to the second floor, to the point where some had to give up their apartments. The final success is a major coup for the Residents Association president Claudette Desjardins, who began campaigning for the elevator four years ago.

Resident Anita Restoule said, “It’s such a big deal, you wouldn’t believe it! I’ve had a pulled shoulder for two months because I carried bags that were too heavy up the stairs. That’s one of the things we can’t do as seniors is push – this is what happens to our bodies. The stairs were getting too much for some of us. You have to go back down if you can’t carry everything, and make 2 or 3 trips from the car… Yeah, we’re very, very pleased.” She added with a sense of humour that the seniors on the second floor really don’t need the extra exercise, adding, “Claudette put in a lot of time, worked very hard for that. What I admire about her is that she has a hard time speaking English, but it doesn’t stop her. She just goes for it. I think she’s pretty brave.”

West Nipissing Mayor Joanne Savage issued a press release touting the accomplishment. “As Mayor, I wish to recognize the Executive Committee of Villa Aubin, along with the residents and their families for not giving up and for continuing to advocate for this endeavour.” West Nipissing’s representative on DNSSAB, Councillor Dan Roveda, also made it a priority when introducing the new CEO Catherine Matheson to the area, citing is as being at the top of the list for investment initiatives. Also supporting the endeavour were councillors Yvon Duhaime and Lise Sénécal.

Claudette Desjardins, the force behind the effort, is also thrilled, even though she herself had to give up her apartment on the second floor and move to the main floor during the campaign. “It took a great deal of volunteers to pull it through but I’m proud to be the one who started that movement. I know a lot of people that live here are very enthused about that. It was really needed. Too bad I had to move downstairs before it was approved. Well, that’s life. The good we do for others will always come back in a different way.” Desjardins said she could no longer cope with the stairs because of her COPD, “not because of my legs, but because of my breath… One of my neighbours moved downstairs last July  because she had problems with her hip and had a replacement and the doctors didn’t want to operate if she was living upstairs.”

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