Perhaps one of the greatest attributes residents, families, team members and leaders value within Schlegel Villages is the family culture that permeates all corners of the organization. It’s something sensed when one steps inside a village for the first time, and it’s certainly something the organization consciously strives to maintain and enhance.
On the second morning of the annual Schlegel Villages Operational Planning Retreat in Niagara Falls at the end of September, this family culture takes centre stage before a crowd of 360. First, vice-president of sales and marketing Laura Stokes-Crain has the pleasure of introducing a compelling, 20-minute film encompassing the history of the Schlegel Family and the impact that history has on village life.
Afterwards, vice-president of support office services Christy Parsons welcomes to the stage Ron Schlegel, founder of Schlegel Villages, and his three sons, Rob, Brad and Jamie, who serve the organization as chief financial officer, vice-president of design and construction and chief executive officer respectively. They sit around a kitchen table, set as it would be for breakfast in the country home the boys grew up in, and Christy leads a discussion on the roots of the family culture that drives them.
Ron speaks immediately of his father, Wilfred, who inspired them with his dedication to community and his willingness to give of himself in the service of others. He was a confidante, welcoming neighbours and strangers alike on almost a nightly basis when they’d come to him seeking help and advice.
Wilfred died in 1978, Ron points out, “but his life has lived on,” he says, gesturing to each of the people in the audience who carry a piece of that legacy forward, “and it’s really heartwarming to see all of the people here and how his spirit is continuing.”
Christy turns to Jamie and asks what he sees as the hallmark of the culture within Schlegel Villages?
“The degree to which relationships are built in our organization that are deeper and richer and more endearing than you would find in a typical workplace,” Jamie replies. “It’s more like the relationship that you would have in a family.”
He recalls the recent loss of a beloved team member who’d served The Village of Riverside Glen for more than a decade. Jamie was there the day the team was told that she had died suddenly in the night. What he witnessed and felt same type of raw grief one would experience in a tight family, he recalls, and he was amazed to see the team supporting each other in painfully beautiful fashion.
“It was way more than you would expect from a typical work setting,” Jamie says, “and that connectivity goes to heart of the organization.”
Brad points out that the core of the culture is community, and evidence of strong, close communities connected to his family name is a point of pride, for in the work and the successes and growth, the spirit of his grandfather is honoured.
“This is what grandpa Schlegel committed his life to,” Brad says, “and he moved the world in amazing ways.”
The conversation flies by in authentic comfort, even as personal stories of adversity and growth within the Schlegel Family float candidly from the table over the audience. At one point near the end, Rob sums up how the discussion relates to the importance of the event that drew 360 people together in Niagara Falls for three days of education and connectedness.
“By supporting each other the culture grows,” Rob says, bringing up the newly launched Wilfred Schlegel Hope Fund, which team members contribute to and the Schlegel Family matches in order to support team members fallen upon hard times. He looks forward to watching the fund grow, he says, until it is entirely ingrained within the culture.
As Ron closes the conversation, he simply says he wants the teams to continue to strive to be better in all they do, living the culture every day as they seek to find gratitude in the lives they lead. Supporting one another and caring for others is a wonderful calling, he says, “and all callings are great if greatly pursued.”
To see the short flim based on the Schlegel Villages culture and the family values that guide the organization, visit our homepage or click here for the YouTube link.