One Man’s Commitment to His Extended Family at St. Clair

David Hands says innovation means always striving to be better

By Kristian Partington

David Hands made sure he was among the large group from Windsor representing The Village of Aspen Lake and The Village at St. Clair during the 2nd annual Innovation Summit hosted in June by Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

Ever since his wife, Sharon, became one of the first residents at St. Clair when it opened two years ago, he’s taken on an active role in village life. He’s there practically every day, supporting his wife and watching with reverence as the team members walk alongside her in her new reality in the aftermath of the stroke she survived. 

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he says with a soft smile after breakfast on Day 2 of he summit.  “These people (team members) are absolutely amazing, and that’s why I’m involved with this event.”

David is the type of person who needs to show his gratitude: he once hosted a barbecue for the team members of the Amherstburg neighbourhood where Sharon lives; he’ll bring gourmet doughnuts in on random days; on Easter Sunday he held a pizza party for the entire neighbourhood.

“I treat these people like family because they basically are,” David says. “They take care of my wife, and not just the team members but all the neighbours. They’re my extended family.”

This is why David sits on the Village Advisory Team (VAT), which shapes many of the village’s ambitions in terms of offering all neighbours the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. The innovation summit, which drew nearly 200 team members, residents, family members and researchers together, was simply an extension of that commitment.

“It’s been amazing,” David says of the summit. “I’ve learned some really good stuff that I will take back to the VAT team – I’ve taken notes like there’s no tomorrow and this is all stuff that we can use in the village.”

He says the first keynote address, offered by the CEO of Health Quality Ontario, Dr. Joshua Tepper, resonated deeply. The subject was failure and the inability of most health-care organizations to truly innovate because of an innate fear of failure.

“Sometimes you’ve got to fail to get better,” David says, echoing Dr. Tepper’s main theme. “Innovation to me means you’re trying to get better, and you can always be one step above. Innovations in these types of gatherings, where you can get information from every village and specialists and keynote speakers, it’s amazing and I’ve taken a lot out of it. It’s really opened my eyes.”