Slowly, carefully, one piece at a time, a refuge for people with post-traumatic stress disorder is taking shape in southwestern Nova Scotia.
It's called Rally Point Retreat — a sprawling, 6,500-square-foot ranch-style house in Sable River that is home to Bob and Johan Grundy.
Bob Grundy is a military veteran with PTSD, who says the Rally Point name makes sense for what they're trying to accomplish.
"It's the place you come to when things are going wrong," he said. "Everybody goes back to a rally point. It's used by the police, it's used by the military. It's even used by buildings that are evacuating."
'You've got time to plan to get healed'
Grundy stresses Rally Point is not a substitute for psychologists or psychiatrists and the treatment they offer. He says it's a place people can come after they've started addressing their condition.
"We're trying to save them," he said. "Suicide's not the only option. If you've got time to plan your suicide, you've got time to plan to get healed or get help as well."
So far this year, 10 first responders and two military officers have committed suicide in Canada, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, an organization focused on helping public safety and military personnel dealing with PTSD.
Even as Grundy works to complete his dream, the retreat is ready to receive visitors. There's a board of directors, including retired military and police officers who themselves are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Finding purpose through woodworking
There's a large woodworking shop just inside the front door, equipped with saws, lathes and hand tools.
Grundy is training one of Rally Point's board members in woodworking so she can teach people who come to the retreat. He says turning out a wooden pen on one of the lathes will prove to guests they still have a purpose.
"The look on people's faces when they do their own pen? It's worth it," said Grundy.
Most of the wood for the pens is harvested from trees on the property. The finished pens are being sold at a local gallery. The money will help defray the costs of running Rally Point, which right now is being financed almost exclusively through Grundy's pensions.
Grundy says the pens should sell well.
"Handmade in Canada by Canadian veterans or first responders going through therapy," Grundy said. "It should be a no-brainer that this is a good idea."
The retreat has just received non-profit status and they hope to become a charity, which will make it easier for them to receive donations.
The home is equipped with a pool table, Ping-Pong table, dartboard, home theatre, games area and a bar is taking shape at one end of the open recreation room.
There's a music corner equipped with a variety of guitars. Grundy calls it Cavern Corner, and admits he borrowed the name from the famous club in Liverpool, England, where the Beatles got their start.
Grundy borrowed something else from the Cavern Club, where the names of artists who performed there are carved into the bricks.
At Rally Point, Grundy is fashioning bricks out of wooden boards in his workshop to thank the people and organizations who have helped along the way. Those bricks will be mounted on the wall in the Cavern Corner.
The lodge has two fully-equipped guest rooms, each with a private bathroom and two queen-sized beds.
Surrounded by nature
The home's original builder was from Germany. He built the house in 1992 before returning to his native country.
Grundy can't imagine why the man wanted so much floor space on a single level, but he says it perfectly suits his vision for a retreat.
One of the things that sold him on the property is the space — the backyard is 42 hectares of woodland. Grundy said it can take an hour and half just to walk the property. Someone looking for solitude can do that walk without running into another person.
There are also lakes for fishing and plans to put in trails for hiking and biking.
Grundy's vision is to eventually have cabins in the woods to offer even more seclusion for people who come to the retreat.
While Rally Point Retreat is ready to receive guests now, Grundy is planning for an official opening of June 27 — which is National PTSD Awareness Day in the U.S.
"There's time when with PTSD you're going to feel like you're alone," he said.
"You're not alone. There's lots of us out there that have it and this is just one more thing that we're trying to do to show you there is a place you can go to get away from it, clear your head, get back on your feet and proceed ahead."