A former police officer from Pitt Meadows who had been away to get treatment for PTSD came home to find his friends had given his house a makeover.
“I cried. I was overwhelmed with appreciation,” said retired RCMP officer Chris Ellis of Pitt Meadows.
He had been away at Ravensview in Saanich recently, learning to deal with post traumatic stress disorder after his policing career. It was a nine-week inpatient treatment program.
“I came home and my house was completely renovated,” he said.
The work was primarily at the exterior front. There was new siding, LED soffit lighting, a new door and entrance way, new stairs, window sills, decorative concrete and more.
A large group of friends, two who have businesses that provide home renovations, went to work over a period of about two weeks.
“There was a lot of effort. The house looks brand new,” he said. “It’s an amazing renovation. It probably would have cost me $40,000 to $50,000.
“It’s a 1974 B.C. Box, but now it’s the nicest home in the neighbourhood.”
It was the work of friends who wanted to show their appreciation. His wife Jackie got the hammers swinging, and the volunteer workers got more ambitious as the job progressed.
Jackie, who is also a retired RCMP officer, often surprises her husband with home improvements when he returns home from being away, like painting, new baseboards or even flooring. Her husband freely admits the handywoman is definitely the better half when it comes to DIY projects. She is starting a new career as a film industry grip.
“I wanted this to be his big surprise, because he was doing so much work on himself,” she said.
Police officers obviously see violence and tragedy many of us will never experience. Ellis retired from the RCMP five years ago, and has discovered he has wounds beyond even the broken back he suffered in 2009.
“A rather large woman jumped on me. I had arrested her son,” he explained.
He didn’t see her coming, and the sudden ambush left him with two compression fractures. The injury wasn’t properly diagnosed for about a year. It finally came to light, when one day he was getting ready for work and his legs simply “gave out.”
But he also had mental health injuries, that left him with nightmares, sudden mood changes and other problems.
The recent isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic left him with too much time alone with his thoughts.
“It was a reminder that I wasn’t doing well.
“I have PTSD relating to a lot of trauma I was exposed to,” he said. “In a 12-hour shift as a police officer, you can experience as much trauma as another person sees in a lifetime.”
Ravensview was “amazing” he said. Ellis feels confident he has the tools to cope with his memories. Trauma treatment involved re-telling those incidents, meditation, art therapy and more. He has a new focus on being kind, mindful and accepting what life throws his way.
Ellis is grateful Veteran’s Affairs supported his treatment. He said the RCMP is evolving a greater awareness of PTSD and its effects on members.
“The culture is changing. More members are aware of their minds, and taking care of their minds.”
Ellis hasn’t stopped appreciating his new-looking house.
“We have a small patio where we would sit and look at the road. Now we turn our chairs and look at the house.”
It makes him feel appreciated. He gets emotional talking about it.
“My friends value me so much, and it makes me value myself.”
Chris and Jackie wanted to recognize everyone who had worked on the project:
- Adam Zanetti (friend for 20 plus years, owner Cast In Stone)
- Hayden Zanetti (Adam’s son)-demo
- Jordyn Ellis (our daughter) – meals/water
- Jaida Ellis (our daughter) – painting
- John Ljubic (friend for 20 plus years, helped with everything)
- Josh Lovig (friend for 30 years, demo and siding and everything else)
- Taryn White (friend 36 years, demo, siding and painting)
- Kevin Paugh (friend five years, electrical and everything else)
- Jeff Galer (friend 10 years, Poco builders)
- Anthony Boucher (siding)
- Jimmy Barna (concrete)
- Daniel Billing (stone work)
- Travis Klein (clean up and disposal)
- Jackie Ellis (demo, siding, painting)
- Bill Dingwall (father , door install)
- Tammy and Clay Gagnon (Whonnock Roofing provided gutters)