As the late October rains hammer down from the sky outside The Village of Wentworth Heights in Hamilton, a celebration is underway in The Ruby, the Village’s restaurant-style dining room upon the 10th Floor. On this night, Schlegel Villages marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the long-term care home on the corner of Rymal Rd. and Upper Wentworth St., and the dedicated team members who served the Village for two decades are the centre of the occasion.
“We can’t say it often enough, the gratitude and the love we feel for you and how we feel when we’re amongst you,” says Brad Schlegel as he looks around The Ruby at the full tables of honoured team members. “The compassion and the caring, we just feel it when we’re in your midst and it’s a very special thing.”
Brad is joined by his wife Heidi and his parents, Ron and Barb to offer greetings and gratitude on behalf of the Schlegel Family, and they all speak of the tight-knit community Wentworth Heights has always been. It’s a community that looks after one another in good times and in bad and accepts everyone for who they are. Former general manager Vanda Koukounakis recounts the spirit of generosity she felt firsthand when she first joined the Village some 13 years ago. It was the first work environment in which she felt comfortable sharing her personal life, and when news spread in the community that she was marrying a woman and beginning a family, she felt nothing but loved and supported.
“It began this relationship – me joining this family that already existed – of accepting people just for who they are and really welcoming people for who they are and supporting people for who they are,” Vanda says. “You don’t realize how incredible you are in that respect and the way you welcome and support people and their differences is what makes the culture at Wentworth Heights so special.”
Bedia Grant and Elizabetha Stanic are sitting at a table with Keith, who is also a guest of honour as the only resident who has lived in the Village since day 1. Bedia laughs aloud when she mentions that Keith was a handsome young man when he moved in and Keith replies, “well, what am I now?”
“The team, the residents, they are what make this place special,” says Bedia, a Personal Support Worker who came to Canada who was raised in Ghana by her grandparents and lived naturally all her life as a caregiver. “Even though it’s a job, when they are around you, you feel like it’s a family. We support each other and the team is always strong together; when one person is in crisis it’s like we are all in crisis.”
Bedia and Elizabetha both agree that as much as they are in The Village to support residents, the residents just as often lift their spirits. Keith, with his dry sense of humour, is but one of many who have that ability to time a joke perfectly or say the right thing to brighten a team member’s day.
It was 1998 when Schlegel Villages was given the opportunity to build five new long-term care homes, and Wentworth Heights was the first to open its doors. This celebration isn’t about the doors or the site or the beds, however, but the spirit of kindness, love and generosity the community is built upon. In the relationships between team members, residents and loved ones, the Schlegel Villages mission is brought to life, and for two decades Wentworth Heights has been a shining example.
Here is a list of all the long-time team members who were celebrated after 20 years at Wentworth Heights:
Roxanne Dela Cruz; Souham Shamoon; Rosa DePasquale; Sherry Ashby; Cristina Brennan; Norma Corpuz; Ewa Safi; Elizabeth Stanic; Michelle Mair; Prisca Tayag; Chin Ching Huang; Izabela Rusek; Susan Hussack; Bedia Grant; Edna Vidallon; Theressa Stevens; Minda Gayodan; Lene Matira; Heather Martin; Jocelyn Matira; Lori Ross; Rowena Covacha; Krista Rendina; Grazyna Blangiewicz; Helen Lopez; Norie Rebamontan; Benita Alonzo; Madalynn St Julien; Heather Luth