Newlyweds Open Their Hearts and Home
to Six Suddenly-Orphaned Siblings
Story by Karen Tinsley
Photography by John Liviero
In September 2020, newlyweds Chantelle and Terrence Hurst opened their hearts to six orphaned siblings ranging in age from 4 to 17 years. It didn’t take long for their story to sprout legs…or for miracles to unfold in our city. One phone call ignited a spark that inspired Windsor businesses, foundations and individual philanthropists to unite—and to support this new family in unexpected ways.
12:00 noon is not the ideal time to call Chantelle Hurst. Ever had to make lunch for 6 kids on a snowy school day in the middle of a pandemic? Enough said.
Chantelle was surprisingly friendly, pleasant and poised when we did sit down to talk at length a little later in the day.
It struck me how quiet it was in the background. “Right now, I’m sitting on my bedroom floor talking to you and I honestly have no worries about why it’s so quiet–even though there are six kids and two cats in other parts of our house,” laughed Chantelle.
“Our house” is the one that Chantelle, Terrence and the six Allen siblings recently moved into after beginning their life as a family. The Allen children lost both parents suddenly and Chantelle and Terrence stepped up. So did the surviving Allen family; the children’s great grandfather gave them a house. It needed work, but had “good bones” as they say in the housing industry.
The Allen and Hurst families know each other through New Life Fellowship Church on Mercer Street. Their pastor, Bishop Paul Riley recalls, “When I learned about what Chantelle and Terrence were doing, I wanted to help, so I reached out to my network. Barry Zekelman of Zekelman Industries (owner of Atlas Tube) was one of the first to respond. Immediately he committed to help the family. He also contacted Dan Caster (President of Caster Group and Caster Custom Homes).”
Dan, a busy entrepreneur with a big heart and a soft spot for children, put the word out to his many contractors, partners and construction industry friends.
The results? 26 Windsor businesses, foundations and individual philanthropists partnered to become Dan’s “altruistic army”. Their mission: thoroughly and completely renovate, lovingly decorate and tastefully furnish every room in the house given to the Hursts by the Allen family.
“New HVAC, new plumbing, rewiring, painting, flooring, window treatments, the works,” said Caster. “All the family had to do was move in.”
Just in time for their first Christmas, Dan handed over the keys to Chantelle and Terrence.
And what a first Christmas it was!
The kids’ bereavement counsellor (who’s been working with each of them one-on-one) conceived a very thoughtful and meaningful Christmas group activity. She supplied clear glass balls and all kinds of sparkly seasonal trim and stickers, then asked them to design individual tree ornaments. Handwritten letters to their deceased parents would be nestled inside. Chantelle says it was one of the first memories the family made together, “one that each one of us will treasure for the rest of our lives. What a beautiful tradition it will be to unwrap those precious ornaments and hang them on our tree in the coming years.”
As if packing up and moving into a new home, corralling the school/online learning chaos for six children, shopping and preparing for Christmas, all while getting to know each other, wasn’t a tall enough order for any family, COVID-19 struck.
Their 14-day quarantine was about to end soon, which is why, when asked to describe a ‘typical day’ in their household, Chantelle couldn’t.
“We haven’t had one yet!”, she laughs. “And oh, did I mention we also have construction underway on a new room in our basement?”
I couldn’t help but ask if any distinct parenting styles have surfaced.
“Oh, that’s easy! I’m the more authoritative parent. The kids have already discovered that, like most moms, I have eyes in the back of my head—I don’t miss much! One night, I came home to find Terrence and the kids settled in to watch a movie. All six of ‘em were holding their own personal giant bag of popcorn! It was so adorable, but something that would never happen with me!”
Terrence had a birthday in mid-January. “All the kids wrote him letters. He was so touched.”
Chantelle and Terrence believe that every child has a unique set of skills and abilities to be valued and nurtured.
“As we continue to bond, personality traits and characteristics are coming to light. One example? Our shy, quiet 11-year-old is already demonstrating that she may just have the makings of a darn good trial lawyer!”
“Of course, some days are better than others. I won’t lie, some days I still wonder, ‘What have we done?’, but that doesn’t mean I have regrets. Far from it. I’ve said before that the Lord just laid something on my heart when it came to caring for these kids. I talked to Terrence about it and he said, ‘if that’s what you want.’ Now, several months into our journey, we know it’s what we both want without question.”
Faith, prayer and regular church attendance underpin every aspect of life for Chantelle and Terrence.
“New Life Fellowship has walked beside us every step of the way since we began
this journey. It’s hard to describe how blessed we feel to be part of our church family.”
That being said, Chantelle also emphasizes, “We can’t even begin to adequately express our gratitude to the countless people in the broader Windsor community—people who didn’t even know us—who came together to show their love and support. It makes my heart happy.”
That’s quite the testimony to Windsor’s reputation for community compassion and generosity. Dan Caster says, “It’s all about family. It’s all about children. What matters more? It’s a pretty incredible story—how a tragedy was transformed by teamwork into something so positive.”
There’s no doubt that Caster, his altruistic army, Bishop Riley and New Life Fellowship Church have given this new family some incredible, unexpected gifts. But the most precious gift—the gift of family—is the miracle that started it all.
For a list of all those companies and individuals who donated their time, money, products or services to this project, see below.
The Alan Quesnel Foundation
Double Diamond Produce
The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation
Troup Group of Companies
MNSI Managed Network Systems
MCB Electrical Contractors
Eagle Mechanical Group
Windsor Home Hardware
Ron & Gerry Montroy
Dave & Lucy Parent
Matt D’Amico & Mike Boulay
Shane Duguay & Dave Priscak
Home Furniture Outlet
Gabriele BrandSource Furniture
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
The Hargreaves Studio