When Lorrie Martin first stepped in the Jakobstettel Guest House just a little over a month ago, she knew she had her work cut out for her if the building was going to welcome Ukrainian refugees.
Walking in, she was hit by the smell. It was stale, “like a house that had been closed for five years. If you go to a cottage after 12 months, you know what it’s like. You need to open up the windows, you need to get fresh air flowing through the home again.”
The place was mostly furnished, but needed a few more pieces, and there was some vandalism.
All told, the place needed much more than just a vacuum and a mopping. But then, the community stepped up.
WinMar Kitchener sent staff to industrially clean all 13 bathrooms and the basement. The ductwork and carpets were cleaned by AAA SteamCleaners, while DecorTile and Flooring donated all the kitchen flooring and provided the staff to install it. The main-level wooden floors were refreshed by Len Koebel Flooring, and five full sets of bedroom linens were cleaned by Newtex Cleaners. Five other full sets of bedroom linens were cleaned by Sketchley Cleaners. Martin says Kastl and Zuch Plumbing will provide plumbing service to the building next week. The owner of the house, Patrick George, had a new kitchen installed.
“They did it all pro bono,” said Martin. “I mean, that’s thousands of dollars of staff, time, labour. And they did it just because when they heard what the initiative was.
“It blew me away,” she said.
After the industrial cleaning, Martin and other volunteers went through to do the finishing touches like vacuuming and dusting. All the needed furniture and appliances were donated.
The group had a three-week window to prepare the old house, and they did it. The final greenlight from the building inspector notwithstanding, the Jakobstettel Inn is once again ready to receive guests.
To celebrate, the team held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house last weekend. For a donation to the guest house fund, people could tour through the house. Elita Weber and Ella Brubacher, the two original innkeepers of the house when it was a working bed and breakfast, prepared the same cookies they used to make when they ran the business for the visitors. Weber said she made 1,000 cookies for the Saturday tours alone.
Dan Girardi, a volunteer with the guest house, collected donations at the door over the weekend. He said many of the people coming through the house had stories attached to it, including stories of being married, staying or working there. Many people had always been intrigued by the house and were excited for the chance to finally see inside.
The rooms were beautifully prepared with full, luxurious beds, light streaming through every window, and flowers placed on tables and in corners.
Sylvia Bauman and her friend Drew Kornacker were touring through the house on Saturday afternoon. Bauman said she had worked at the house when it ran as an Airbnb location for a time. Kornacker helped her with her tasks. They remember the work with rueful smiles.
“There was a lot of bedding and laundry to be done every day,” said Kornacker.
John Routley is a former realtor and a neighbour. “I’ve loved this place since I moved here in 2018,” he said. “I’ve always had an interest in properties so I’ve been watching this place. I love the history of places.”
All told, about 500 people went through the house on the weekend, and almost $5,000 was raised, said Girardi.
“To see the community revive it has been the biggest gift,” said Martin.
As a final step, fire department staff will need to complete their inspection to make sure the building is up to code. Once that step is complete, the first Ukrainian family is already waiting to move in.
This family includes two young teen girls, grandparents and a mother, said Martin. She says her team has prepared the house with these individuals in mind.
“We just want this home to embrace them and help them to feel safe, get the counselling they may need and get themselves established in Canada. And I want this house to be like a warm blanket over them.”