When Emily Baker was a girl, she played house league softball. It wasn’t a competitive league at all, but focused simply on having fun. She and her sister learned in that park league that all people may not be equal in terms of ability, but everyone deserves a chance to play and have fun and be a part of a team.
Emily’s father says Emily carried that sense of fairness and equity with her throughout her life. It led to her first post-secondary diploma as a social service worker and her first career step supporting children living with autism. Her kindness and empathetic nature carried her to a second diploma in recreation therapy, and eventually to her place as a fixture with the team at Hamilton Continuing Care, the small Schlegel Village in the core of the city.
The mix of experience she offered the residents in the small home was ideal. She brought her personal perspective along with her background in social service work, and she was able to connect with each person she met on an individual basis. There was no going “above and beyond” for Emily, as the cliché goes, because there was only one way to go, and that was as far as she could every day to support others.
“That was just Emily,” says her father, who over many Christmases would dress up as Santa Claus alongside Emily as an elf to deliver presents to the HCC Residents. “I think we’re a caring family,” her father adds, and Emily lived that out at HCC. “She was always heavily engaged; just a caring, warm soul.”
On Village outings, Emily made sure every resident could buy a cup of coffee or the clothing they needed, even if money was a concern. If a team member was having a rough time, she would treat them to a lunch over conversation at Tim Horton’s.
She intrinsically knew how to brighten someone else’s day, but the days began to lose some of their brightness when Emily’s health began to worsen in 2019 and they grew darker when she passed away in December, 2020.
“Emily had a smile that would bring joy to all around her,” says Kelly Younger, who began working with Emily in 2017 as HCC’s General Manager. “She was humble and so very kind.”
Residents who knew Emily remember her the same way.
“She was the most beautiful human being I have ever met,” recalls Mary Lou Harris. “Emily was quiet, kind and patient; friendly to everyone and always wanted to help others. We struck up quite a friendship during her time here; I was so very sad when she left as she was very good to everyone.”
Her family wanted to pay tribute to their beloved Emily with a gift to the residents of HCC today and into the future. Through the Schlegel Villages Charitable Foundation, they’ve offer $5,000 to arrange a fund to ensure that at HCC, no matter a resident’s financial circumstance, no opportunity to participate in an outing would be passed over. If a need is there, the fund will be as well.
“Emily started something,” her father says, “and she couldn’t finish it on her own so we’re going to finish it for her. She loved these people.”
Julie Maidment is the General Manager at HCC today, and though she never knew Emily personally, she feels her kindness in the thoughtful generosity her family offers in her name.
“I have been truly humbled by hearing stories of Emily from her family, and our residents and team members at HCC; her spirit lives on in the hearts of many here,” Julie says. “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt this fund will help ‘make their day’ for residents who struggle to go on outings, buy a cup of coffee, a soft drink or even a new pair of slippers.
“We will be honored to oversee this fund in Emily’s name.”
The Schlegel Villages Charitable Foundation was created to meet the demand of people connected to Village life who wanted to donate funds for a variety of reasons. There are three main streams donations are directed:
- The Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA), where funds support research and innovation in support of older adults;
- Camp Schlegel at Shady Pines, where funds are directed towards the construction of two, fully-accessible cabins to offer anyone of any ability an opportunity to enjoy a camping experience;
- Support for Village Life, where donors can honour the Village they are close to, just as Emily Baker’s family has done.