From One ‘Small Village with a Big Heart’ to Another

Don and Helen Cofell retired to the small town of Stirling Ont., just north of Belleville, for love of the quiet, country atmosphere and the opportunity to be involved in community life. Helen, especially, made her presence felt in countless volunteer capacities, and was recognized in 2017 for her commitment to the community. Don mentions that Stirling is billed as the “Little Village with a Big Heart,” and he felt that all the years they lived there.  

Rick and Don are so grateful for Erin Meadows,  home to both Don and his lovely wife, Helen. 
Rick and Don are so grateful for Erin Meadows,
 home to both Don and his lovely wife, Helen. 

“I never met a person in Stirling I didn’t like,” Don says, his tone humble and matter-of fact.

They were happy there for some 30 years, but when Helen began to show signs of dementia and her health began to worsen, Don realized that the combination of supporting her and keeping up with the property was going to be too much to manage. With the help of their son-in-law Rick McDonnell, they began exploring options.

This is when they first learned of The Village of Erin Meadows. As their only remaining family, Don and Helen knew they wanted to be near Rick and family in Mississauga and he had seen the new retirement building grow out of the ground as he often drove by. He also knew the name Schlegel Villages because a close friend had a loved one in a sister village, who always sang the praises of the organization.

When they could eventually tour the new suites, Rick and his daughter did so and determined it had everything, from an independent suite with a nice kitchen where Don can continue with his passion for cooking, to the fully-serviced Emma’s neighbourhood to support Helen as the dementia she was living with progressed. Don knew he wanted to be close to her, and it doesn’t get much closer than a short elevator ride away.

He was convinced when they arrived for their first visit.

“This place has an ambience about it,” Don says. “When I came in, the character of the library and the rotunda – it wasn’t like a Holiday Inn that had been revamped.”

In many ways, he could tell it was much like Stirling, that little Village with a Big Heart. They could feel that in the people they met and the conversations they had with team members. “I always like doing business with people who are happy in their work,” Don explains. It didn’t feel like a sales push when Don arrives, but more like Christina, one of the directors of lifestyle options, “was giving me an invitation to visit her at her home; she had such a nice way.”

The Cofells moved to the Village in August 2020 to a suite in the Ailsa Craig neighbourhood, and not long after, Helen was able to move into a suite in Emma’s.

There were a couple of delays due to the challenges presented by COVID-19 but they settled in thanks to the support of the team and Rick, who is designated as an essential caregiver and is thus able to be in the Village, even if an outbreak was to occur.

“There is no place I would rather be than here,” Don says, “noting he feels there has been far too much discussion in the media about congregate care homes and the operators all being “painted with the same brush.”

“This place could be a model of how homes should be run,” he says, recognizing that COVID-19 has forced great challenge upon so many care providers across Canada. While there are certainly lessons to learn, he couldn’t be happier knowing Helen is well cared for right now and there is hope on the horizon that things will open up even more as vaccinations rise and COVID cases drop. Rick agrees as he says “I am very happy they are here because of what the organization is doing to control and deal with CVOID, overall.

“Everything they have done I’m 100 percent on board with it and fully support all of their initiatives.”  


Throughout the month of June, we’ll be showcasing the talents and passions of residents within our Villages. Don Cofell has a passion for poetry, passed down from his mother. He shared this short poem about life in Erin Meadows.

Erin Meadows

Residents of the Village, I propose a toast,

To those deserving it the most.

It is not the politicians with their double talk.

It for Anneliese and staff, who walk the walk.

They bring the sun to the Village on these dark days,

And share it with us with their caring ways.

And one can easily tell,

They silently endure our pain as well.

If there were more people like these,

And, more like Anneliese,

All of us would surely see,

What a better place the world could be.