Main Street in The Village at St. Clair smells of popcorn on a random Wednesday at the end of November and music belts out as a small core of residents sing and dance along. People float in and out and the familiar tones seem to spark interest in them all. Some are neighbours (residents) who can’t resist the motions of the YMCA or a chance to do The Twist, while others are family members coming or going, their smiles spreading wide as they listen to neighbour Wayne sing enthusiastically along, perhaps a little out of key.
It’s moments like these that the team, neighbours, families and volunteers are celebrating as The Village marks its 5th anniversary this week. There is a core of people who’ve been part of this community since the doors opened in 2014, both team members who put the final touches on things before the doors opened and neighbours who were the first to bring life into the building, making it a home.
Dianne Charkey was among them. She was the second person to move into the Essex neighbourhood and she’s as comfortable today as she was in those early days. She’d come from a different long-term care home in the Windsor area and was immediately struck by the different approach to support the team at St. Clair seemed to embody. Team members would surprise their neighbours with special meals, she says, and she still recalls beating Noel Erum at checkers not long after they met. He was in recreation at the time before eventually taking a leadership role as a neighbourhood coordinator and he and Dianne remain close today, bonded as they were in the early days of Village life.
Dianne has two perspectives as she reflects on the past five years. In one way, there have been many changes as team members have come and gone and the inevitable passing of neighbours continually shifts the dynamic of the community. That change is a constant reality in any long-term care setting. What hasn’t changed, according to Dianne, is the dedication and compassion she sees and feels from the team members.
“No matter who is doing the care, they still give you the attention and care you need and they’re there on the spot,” she says. She recognizes how busy the team is, yet so many people strive to go beyond in the relationships they forge with their neighbours.
From events such as Culture Change Campouts, where team members and neighbours venture off to the countryside together for overnight camping trips, to music and popcorn on Wednesdays with a kind-hearted volunteer, there have been countless times in the past five years where the strength of these relationships have shone brightly.
That is certainly worth celebrating.