Tomkins House: How a Tiny Connection Helped Bring About Hospice Huronia’s New Facility

Tomkins House, a new end-of-life residential facility serving North Simcoe, is set to open on April 6. Hospice Huronia, the driving force behind the building of Tomkins House, has been active in our community since 1993. Started by Bev Gerow (now McPetrie) and Margaret Bayfield (now deceased) and operating out of the old Penetanguishene Hospital site, Hospice Huronia provides in-home volunteer visiting and bereavement support.

With Tomkins House, the organization will now be able to host and care for 150 end-of-life residents each year, and support 750 family members through that difficult time. Tomkins House will also provide a safe, comfortable meeting place for family and friends to gather. Hospital rooms and care facilities often lack the space or amenities to encourage longer visits. Resident rooms are large and private, where family can stay overnight with their loved ones. There is a common kitchen/family room where meals can be prepared and shared, plus an outdoor garden area where beds can be wheeled. The support of staff and volunteers allows family members to be themselves and not caregivers for those last precious days.

All services, including in-home hospice volunteers, bereavement support and the residential hospice, are free to the client and family thanks to the generosity of our local communities and partial funding (about 50%) from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. It’s interesting to know that hospices are less expensive to run than hospitals. Tomkins House expects to save taxpayers $1,000,000 in healthcare costs each year compared to hospitalization: a hospice bed costs $460 per day vs. $1,100 for a hospital bed.

Tomkins House is located at 948 Fuller Avenue in Penetanguishene. Curious about the facility? Give them a call (705-549-1034). Hospice Huronia staff and volunteers would love to give you a tour of their new hospice home.

The Tiny connection

Tomkins House is named after a generous benefactor, Nicola Tomkins, a former resident of Tiny. She was known for the many fundraisers held at “the Barn” on her North Shore property. The $1.56 million donation made by Nicola and her husband David Gowen in September 2018 ensured our community would have a local hospice serving North Simcoe. Previously, the nearest hospice facilities were in Barrie or Collingwood with limited availability.

The modern day hospice movement was started in 1967 by Dame Cicely Saunders who founded St. Christopher’s House in London, England. She was a nurse who eventually trained as a physician in order to provide a full spectrum of care to dying patients. Since they could not be “cured”, services offered by hospitals and physicians were limited. Dame Saunders emphasized the focus on the patient rather than the disease, providing compassionate care as well as palliative comfort for physical symptoms. She emphasized the psychological and spiritual as well as the physical needs of the patient.

by Irene Wilson, Wendake Beach

How You Can Support Hospice Huronia

Much of the work accomplished by Hospice Huronia is achieved with the assistance of caring and compassionate volunteers. Here are three ways you could get involved.

  1. Contribute your time and skills. Hospice Huronia welcomes volunteers who could help clients and their families, provide administrative or office support, or fundraising or special events.
  2. Provide financial support. The cost of building Tomkins House has been largely funded by private donations, as well as land donated by the Town of Penetanguishene. However, Hospice Huronia still faces many start-up costs to furnish and equip the building. Find out how you can contribute by visiting
  3. Join Hike for Hospice on May 31, 2020 at Wye Marsh. Hike, bike, walk or stroll. Sign up and download pledge sheets on line.

Find out more on Hospice Huronia’s website: