'I'm very blessed' Community rallies to help a holocaust survivor with a renovation
BARRIE -- "I'm very fortunate. I thank god every minute there are still good people in the world."
These words are spoken with a grateful smile from 91-year-old Madeleine Jug. They aren't words you might expect from someone who has walked in the senior's shoes.
Ms. Jug is a holocaust survivor. She found refuge in Canada in 1942 and made her way to Barrie in 1980.
More recently, she moved in with long-time family friend, Patty Picarelli, who didn't hesitate to help Jug in her time of need.
"I wanted to help her," Picarelli says. She explains that her father was a friend of Jug's, and when he passed, she 'adopted' the senior, who she calls her mother-figure. "We're a family now, and we love her."
So much so, that Picarelli opened up her house to Ms. Jug, aiming to give her a home.
"Although I didn't have the extra space, I made the space for her so that she would be in a loving, safe home surrounded by people that cared for her."
"She gave up her dining room and office for me, and I'm very happy here," Ms. Jug says.
But the move came with its challenges. With the shower on the second floor, the senior has been bathing on the main floor.
"I go in the laundry room, and there is the hose. She (Picarelli) helps me. There is no other way. I have no other choice," Ms. Jug describes.
"It makes me very sad that she has to sponge bath," Picarelli says.
Ms. Jug suffered an injury while in a concentration camp in Poland as a 14-year-old girl. Because of that, she can't make her way up the stairs in Picarelli's home to use the shower.
"I can't walk the steps. I can't," Jug says. "They throw a knife in my foot," she adds about her time spent in the camp in 1942.
So Picarelli picked up the phone to ask for help. "I made 43 phone calls." Forty-three calls that went nowhere.
"We should be doing more to help seniors," Picarelli states. "Madeleine has suffered through so much."
After hearing the news, the Jewish community in Barrie stepped in to help.
"We put a Facebook campaign out, and within about 24 hours, we raised half of the goal. That was incredible," explains Rabbi Mendel Nakkar.
Sultana Mechali, with the Chabad Jewish Centre, soon became the driving force behind the mission to help Ms. Jug have a proper shower.
She headed to Home Depot and sat down with the assistant manager.
"I told him the story." She says he took her into his office and, "He says, 'choose what you need.' This guy was amazing," Mechali praises. "He gave us about 75 percent of the equipment."
Along with Home Depot, MRK Contractors offered to do $8,000 worth of work for less than $3,000.
"I'm very blessed," Ms. Jug says, overwhelmed by the support.
Picarelli says the shower will make an incredible difference in the 91-year-old's life. "That's what we need help with, we need supplies, we need donations for the labour, and we need a ramp in the spring so she can safely make it outdoors from the front and the back."
The renovations will begin on Wednesday, but Picarelli says, even with the Home Depot donations, they are still about $1,000 short for the labour and materials.
For Ms. Jug, just knowing she will soon be able to bathe herself makes her smile. "Makes me feel real happy. Four more days!"
- With files from CTV's Craig Momney