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Proud winners . . . This year's Trustpower Community Awards supreme award winner for Waitaki was the Whalan Lodge Trust, represented by chairman Barney McCone (second right), lodge manager Ethel Gray (second left), last year's supreme winner. Lucianne White, representing Harbour St Jazz, and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

From the brink of closure to full capacity and a Trustpower Community Award win – the fortunes of Kurow’s Whalan Lodge have turned for the better.

The future of the Waitaki Valley township’s only rest-home once looked bleak and if not for the support of the Kurow community, it would probably have closed.

Financial issues at the lodge that had dated back several years came to a head in 2016, when the Whalan Lodge Trust pleaded for expressions of interest from people who required aged care in the near future.

The lodge was fully occupied in 2012 but occupancy levels dropped and new lessees had difficulties running it.

In an effort to keep the business afloat, the trust helped with rent relief, insurance payments and the cost of mandatory audits, but by December 2013, the lessees felt the business was no longer viable.

Despite an increase in residents, the facility continued to lose money and a public meeting to address the issue was held in November 2014.

At the meeting, more than 140 people expressed support for the lodge and more than $10,000 was donated by locals to assist in its operation.

In 2016, the trust raised a loan of $50,000 to continue to operate the lodge, and two grants had been received from the Meridian Energy Community Fund to repair and renew flooring and buy a mobility van.

Today, the rest-home is at full capacity with 14 residents, a growing waiting list and greater financial security.

It employs 14 staff and contracts several casual staff.

Volunteers help run the rest-home in virtually every way possible, from donating firewood and helping in the kitchen to assisting caregivers and driving residents to appointments.

The trust recently won the supreme award for the Waitaki district at the Trustpower Community Awards, which trust chairman Barney McCone said came as a result of years of hard work.

“We are proud to have won the trophy and its recognition of the support we receive in our community. It’s been a big turnaround.”

He said it was essential that the rest-home remained open.

“We should be in pretty good shape, I think. It’s very important for our older people to be able to stay in their own community with their friends and family and not have to shift away.

“We’re pretty determined we are going to hang on to that.”

The trust will represent the district at the national Trustpower Community Awards next year.

Other award winners were Special Olympics North Otago, Vanished World, Waitaki Community Gardens and the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust.