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Local Salvation Army Journey

Local Salvation Army Journey To Life Centre Opens!


by Scott A. Sumner

Thunder Bay has a great new addition to serve our community with the >completion and opening of the new Salvation Journey to Life Centre on Cumberland Street!The 30,000 square foot building is a massive improvement over the much smaller building (15,000 square feet) that was built in the 1950’s and began being used by the Salvation Army in 1971. The new building is a $15.5 million structure with the Salvation Army organization providing $7.5 million and the local capital campaign to provide $2.5 million which is about $650,000 from their fundraising target. In addition >funds were provided by the Federal, Provincial and Municipal goverments.


Gary Ferguson is the new Executive Director of the Salvation Army Journey to Life Centre.“ The old building was ordinally a hotel and then converted. The change>here is not only the new building but a new program we have called Journey to Life, a transitional program.”

“ The new Journey to Life is a program where individuals will be in an apartment type setting for as little as 6 months or a just over a year. >The concept is we look at the skills they will need to transition from this building to the community with their own place and employment. It is a program the is bridging the gaps. We have found that some people may get out on their own in housing and just not have the skills to maintain it. They may need budgeting skills, or understanding an employment culture, or time management. Here they get more structure >individualized to their needs say with meal preparation or addiction training. We ask what are your long term goals and try to help achieve those with our own staff and outside resources available in the community.”he Salvation Army have 46 staff here in Thunder Bay including casual. They also have the soup van program and the habitat building
apartment located by the casino.
The new Journey to Life facility can host 20 shelter short term >residents, 20 Journey to Life people, 16 special care beds and 8 Correction Service Canada rooms. They can have 64 people living here at one time with a bit of an overflow possible. In Thunder Bay there are other organizations that can help as well.The protocols with the pandemic care are important.The Salvation Army have been fortunate not having a COVID 19 case within their building.

The Salvation Army annual budget is accomplished with their yearly >Red Shield campaign and some federal and provincial funding as well.


“ This is a new building but the staff here created successes in the >the old building which made this happen. The new Journey to Life program is quite unique and we are proud to offer it to the community. The people that come here may have addiction issues, mental health issues or are at a point of crisis in their life and need to be here >for that,”said Gary Ferguson. “ It is all about the change aspect, your desire to want to change as a person. We try to understand our clients and their history, their jobs, past situations that have occurred,what are their needs and their desires.”

“The building helps with the clients mood.The building is fresh, bright and clean. The building is set back from the road which makes it safer. One client asked me why did you spend so much money on us? Another said I’ve never lived in any place that was new.” said Gary. “These type of comments touch you.”

Gail Kromm,Community Engagement Manager“ We are looking at the whole person,not just to find them a bed or give them food or help with their addiction, but to look at the whole being. What do they already have going for them, what do they bring to the table and what are their challenges and how do we help them overcome them.”“ Right around the time Major Lori Mitchell came here we were told someone from our head office was coming to visit.They agreed we needed a new building and asked would we continue to do the same things here. We had just sat down briefly recently and had a loose idea of the Journey to Life Centre concept. They came back to us and said we are giving a $ 5million gift just to get it started.They said we are getting the new building because of this new program we would offer.”


There is a spiritual component with the Salvation Army.

“We have had 49 years in the old building and seen thousands of people.We want to break the cycle for people and have had good success stories.Every bit of work I am doing is towards change for people. Just getting to know the guys so when I walk through the building I can talk to them and get to know them better. It s an humbling experience to be here. We want to give hope to people.”said Gary Ferguson.

Salvation Army History

As some of you may or may not know, locally and presently in 131 >countries, The Salvation Army is running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless and disaster relief and humanitarian aid here and in developing countries.The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London by one-time Methodist circuit-preacher William Booth and his wife Catherine as the East >London Christian Mission, and can trace its origins to the Blind Beggar tavern. In 1878 Booth re-organized the mission, becoming its first General and introducing the military structure which has been retained as a matter of tradition. Its highest priority is its Christian principles. The current international leader of The Salvation Army and chief executive officer (CEO) is General Brian Peddle, who was elected by the High Council of The Salvation Army on 3rd, August, 2018.

The Salvation Army (TSA) is a Protestant Christian church and an international charitable organization. The organization reports a worldwide membership of over 1.7 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents collectively known as Salvationists. Its founders sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting both their "physical and spiritual needs".

The theology of the Salvation Army is derived from that of Methodism, although it is distinctive in institution and practice. A peculiarity of the Army is that, it gives its clergy titles of military ranks, such as "lieutenant" or "major". It does not celebrate the rite of Baptism and Holy Communion. However, the Army's doctrine is otherwise typical >of holiness churches in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. The Army's purposes are "the advancement of the Christian religion ... of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole"./>We at Thunder Bay Business first wrote about the project last October 2019 when the steel structure was just going up. Now that the project is virtually complete we can provide more information on this wonderful addition to serve Thunder Bay and region.

As with any construction project, large or small, before a shovel evertouches the ground, there is a lot to do that really goes unnoticed.>Before the local project could begin, Major Lori Mitchell, Executive Director, Thunder Bay Journey to Life Centre Salvation Army shares this with us: “The current building, (located at 545 Cumberland Street <North) was built in the 1950’s and has numerous structural issues, but more than the building, was the need to provide more enhanced services to our clients. We had been using ‘Band-Aid’ solutions – warehousing people rather than helping them to find their best selves and have the best life they can have. Our Journey to Life program will provide skills development training in a safe, residential environment to help >move men through the system rather than keeping them in it. The new building will help us to have the adequate residential and program space to do all that we envision and will be purpose-built. The first step was the national Salvation Army offering us $5 million as startup funding. We then had a commitment from our regional Salvation Army and we ourselves committed funding as well.

Then we went to every level of government and pitched the Journey to Life idea – with the building as a means to an end rather than the end in and of itself.”

From Salvation Army team, to architect, general contractor, and the trades, and government officials, these are just some of the people,companies and organizations, that are ultimately involved in this major >undertaking: Major Lori Mitchell names those involved “Vinny Mithra -The Salvation Army Territorial Property Consultant and Project Manager; Julia Coley-Philips - The Salvation Army Divisional Property Consultant; Major Lori Mitchell, Executive Director, Thunder Bay Journey to Life Centre; Anthony Yozipovic - MBuilds Project Manager, Cory Stechyshyn - Project Architect and Andy Puiatti - Associate />Architect - i4 Architecture; Erik Knudsen, Dave Shalley and Franco
Gorenszach - TBT Engineering, Lisa Sandham Interior Design and Werner Schwar, Landscape Architect. We have a commitment from CMHC – through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund; from the Investment in Affordable Housing through the Canada-Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) for Ontario Extension Program and the Canada-Ontario Social Infrastructure Fund (SIF) Investment in Affordable Housing Program (administered through the TBDSSAB); and from the City of Thunder Bay.

We asked Cory Stechyshyn - Project Architect with i4 Architecture some questions on how the project has gone over the last year or so to completion.

>How has the final structure turned out from your concept to completion?

I4architecture and our consulting team worked closely with the Salvation Army in developing the layout and vision for the new Journey to Life building, the building shape and layout was altered a few times during the design phase to address project budget and programmatic requirements, but the final concept that the drawings for construction were based upon remained intact in its layout, look and character through to the project completion.

The building information modeling software that we use for our projects provides us with the ability to accurately illustrate the lookand character of our designs and the colored rendering used on the project job sign is a close resemblance to what you see standing on the site today.journey-4of view?

The building has several interesting and unique features inside and out, the exterior landscaping is designed to utilize plant material that provide color and variation through all the seasons and for natural on-site storm water management, the exterior materials are durable and low maintenance, upon arrival inside the building you meet up with a green living wall that provides natural character and air-enhancing qualities, the ceilings throughout the common areas vary in color and texture to provide interest and to visually connect adjacent rooms and spaces, the Chapel provides a spiritual space that is circular to recognize the wholeness of the space with an expression of the vertical using a 2-storey high ceiling with round circular cedar logs cantilevered off the curving walls, tongue-and-groove cedarceilings and punched windows that are flared to increase the natural interior daylight. Most noticeably on the interior should be the access to natural daylight and connection with the exterior with both the residents and staff having access to exterior patios, gardens and activity space.army-11

Will the building be energy efficient to operate ongoing?

The building is designed for enhanced energy efficiency and utilized environmentally friendly and sustainable materials and building strategies as well as triple-glazed fiberglass windows in its construction. Roof and wall construction exceeds today’s energy code requirements for thermal insulation and the building systems design reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25% when compared to the >2015 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) requirements. One of the mandates of the Salvation Army was to reduce building operating costs long term and the CMHC funding for the project required that the building performance exceed the NECB by at least 25%.>How did the construction process go throughout the build?

The construction process for this project started while the detailed >drawings were underway when MBuilds were hired by the Salvation Army as Project Managers to collaborate with the Salvation Army and the Consulting Team to monitor the project budget and schedule and to share ideas on construction materials and methods. This collaboration carried on as MBuilds contract was converted to a Construction Contract as General Contractors while maintaining their project management role through the construction process.

The entire team worked collaboratively throughout the construction >process to maintain costs and schedule and work through any project challenges that arose, including the COVID-19 pandemic that slowed >construction and material and product delivery on the final stages of >the project. Through the efforts of the project manager, contractor and their subtrades – the Salvation Army were able to begin occupying their new facility one week earlier than the revised schedule that was agreed >to following the COVID-19 impact. This project certainly demonstrates a collaborative team effort involving the Salvation Army, the consultants, the contractor and its subtrades and suppliers, and the local building officials from day one of the intent to build a new facility for the City of Thunder Bay.We would like to mention these names / companies as follows;

The Salvation Army
Major Lori Mitchell, past Executive DirectorVinny Mithra, Project CoordinatorJonathan Elrick, Director of operationsJulia Coley-Phillips, Divisional property CoordinatorMichaela Jones, Project CoordinatorMBUILDSAnthony Yozipovic – Project ManagerTony Tesolin – Site Superintendent
Robert Little – Senior EstimatorGraham Belluz – Project Manager / EstimatorConsulting TeamI4architecture Cory Stechyshyn, Architect Andy Puiatti, ArchitectTerry Gunnell, Justin Berube, Evan Chezick (Stephanie Vezina / Neal McLean) – Design TechnologistsTBT Engineering
Erik Knudsen – Structural Engineer Dave Shalley – Mechanical Engineer Franco Gorenszack – Electrical Engineer>Don Bowes – Civil Engineer>Lisa Sandham Interior DesignWerner Schwar Landscape ArchitectCarl Pettypiece – Nova Specialties and DoorsGreg White – Landry White & Associates Consulting Inc. (Cladding & >Roofing Consultants)Major Lori Mitchell, past Executive Director

“The Salvation Army are in process of a capital campaign for $2.5 million, of which much has already been raised with more to go. Gail >Kromm is our Community Engagement Manager and I am the communications officer. We have been quite happy with MBuilds. Everyone we have dealt with, from Peter Belluz to everyone on the team, has been very >professional and knowledgeable and great to work with. Construction, and all that goes with it, is not my expertise, but Anthony takes the >time to make sure I understand what is going on and why.

Tony Tesolin, the site supervisor, is doing an amazing job of coordinating all the trades. Everyone on the site – from any of the subtrades, is respectful and hardworking – there seems to be a real spirit of cooperation. Everyone understands how important this project is, not just from a construction standpoint, but from a service >standpoint.”


Earlier in the year, Patty Hajdu, the minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced a $3 million contribution to the project through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

M Builds’ Project Manager, Anthony Yozipovic also provides some project details that help us to somewhat, visualize the ‘behind the scenes’  orchestration of this much needed facility. M Builds (previously Manshield Construction) was first awarded the $15.5 project in early February of 2018. Anthony Yozipovic tells TBB Magazine:“From the outset of the award, we have been working in unison with the Salvation Army and the Consultants through each phase of the design process reviewing and evaluating building systems, building layout/organization, construction processes and construction details to provide cost effective solutions to deliver the building within the Client’s budget and allowing them to meet their program requirements. Following the interdisciplinary design and budgeting phase, tendering of the project and Clients fundraising efforts, we were able to mobilize mid-June of 2019.Speaking of the construction features of the new build, Anthony also had this to say: “One of the unique features of the building that Robert our chief estimator conceived and developed along with the consulting team (I4 Architecture, TBT Engineering) was to prefabricate a panelized wall system that could be erected and secured onto the steel structure in a very short time period. Due to the fact that we have a very short construction season in Thunder Bay, this system allowed us to enclose the building in record time, which will allow the roof and widows to be installed prior to the onset of winter. This system saved our Client on heating and hoarding enclosure costs and will provide a dry warm environment for the interior construction to progress without the complications of working in the extreme cold that we tend to see in this area. Also, utilizing this hybrid pre-manufactured exterior wood frame wall panel system is unique in a building that will not be sprinklered (due to the Clients program requirements) and is required to be constructed of non-combustible construction. This hybrid system required involvement by a third-party fire engineering specialist that have enabled the panels to be pre-fabricated locally out of wood in a building which would have otherwise not been allowed. Other unique features of the new building include a Living Wall, a Wellness Centre, a two-storey round Chapel with locally inspired finishes, a new modern kitchen with a separate >gaming kitchen for the preparation of wild game. The Journey to Live Centre is also unique in itself facilitating an environment for the residents to grow and develop new life skills and preparing them for life within the community.”


The general contracting team of M Builds, working together on this project, is Anthony Yozipovic - Project Manager, Tony Tesolin - Site Supervisor, Robert Little - Chief Estimator, Peter Belluz - General >Manager. Peter Belluz of M Builds, (previously Manshield Construction), also commented on this great project and had this to say: “The Salvation Army project has been a collaboration between Cory Stechyshyn of i4 Architecture, the owners Vinny and Lori, and M Builds construction management team. M Builds has been fortunate to be involved in the design of the facility as it relates to the construction during the winter of 2018/2019. During that time, M Builds became very familiar with the workings of the existing facility and the Salvation Army staff’s goals for the new facility. M Builds assisted in evaluating the design concepts for the construction of the new facility, including items related to staff function, circulation and space requirements, decorative features and aesthetics, and constructability of the structure and envelope. The details were ironed out with the project team during weekly construction management meetings, budgeted over the course of the winter, and circulated to subtrades for tender in the Spring of 2019. Due to M Builds involvement in the planning of the construction, there were no surprises to the Owner when the subtrade tenders were received this Spring, and the Salvation Army was able to give final approval of the design and budget in June of this year.

The $15.5 million project has also received $7.5 million from the Salvation Army, $1.3 million from the province, and $500,000 from the city.>The new Journey to Life Centre and the programs offered, including transitional housing, is focused on helping people recover from all kinds of circumstances, get back on their feet and out of homelessness.Major Lori Mitchell: “If individuals, families or businesses want to be part of something great in northwestern Ontario, they can donate to our capital campaign by phoning 807-345-6492 or by mail at 545 Cumberland Street North, Thunder Bay ON P7A 4S2. We appreciate all the support we have received thus far and we are confident that we will meet our fundraising goal.” To date the campaign has $650,000 remaining to meet the $2.5 million goal

The Salvation Army, General Contractor, M Builds and i4Architecture … working together for the greater humanitarian benefit of society and >the community, as a whole.>As they old saying goes: ‘Charity begins at home.’ Please help.


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