Paying Homage to the Village that Started it All

Winston Park celebrates 25 years

By Kristian Partington

When Barb Sutcliffe began working at the Village of Winston Park in Kitchener 21 years ago, any major celebration in the village would take place in a single small dining room. Maybe someone would play the piano and there’d be a few snacks and refreshments. If all hands were called on deck to support the event, you’d count all the help on one hand.   

Schlegel family standing in front of 25th Anniversary ice sculpture in Winston Park

How things have changed. On Sept. 18, following an early Sunday lunch, a small army of volunteers worked alongside the leadership team, transforming the large dining room off Winston Park’s Williamsburg neighbourhood into an elegant social space, “a black, white and silver oasis,” as Barb says.

The auspicious occasion marked the flagship village’s 25th anniversary and Barb, who was happy to be part of the team that organized the celebration, saw the event as an opportunity "to showcase our talents. All the food was cooked in house," she says, "with our team of chefs and cooks and servers who did all the prep." Gillian James, Barb points out, with her 16 years of Schlegel history in food services, hospitality and marketing, ensured everything was perfect. "It was really very elegant.”

And the elegance was fitting, for the roots of Schlegel Villages trace back to Winston Park, and the influence of the early team members who nurtured and helped develop the Schlegel philosophy of support for seniors can be felt throughout the organization’s 16 villages today.

As Schlegel Villages founder Ron Schlegel pointed out in his speech at the celebration, Winston Park “has been a real developer of talent, to the point where we now have 16 villages extending from Windsor to Whitby to Barrie . . . and (Winston Park) has become the training centre for leadership in these other villages.”

Chris-Anne Preston, who worked through the village to eventually become director of retirement care, is a prime example of this development in action. She opened the Village at University Gates in Waterloo last year as general manager, applying all of her experience to the leadership of a brand new team.

There are also people like Christy Parsons, who began her career as a recreation team member at Winston Park and is now the vice president of support office services, helping guide the path of the entire organization. Melanie James, also from recreation at Winston Park, now oversees all villages as the lead recreation consultant. Even Jamie Schlegel, now the president and CEO of Schlegel Villages, was the general manager at Winston Park when Barb began working there 21 years ago.

Not only is the village a developer of people, Ron pointed out, it is also an incubator of ideas, often becoming one of the first locations to pilot signature programs designed to enhance the lives of residents and neighbours in the community.

The 25th anniversary was a time to celebrate all that has been achieved over the years by Schlegel Villages as a whole. The organization has grown to become a leader in long-term care and retirement service and is at the forefront of the quest to change the way society views aging and elderhood in our communities.

Winston Park, Ron said, “has played a central role, a key role, over these 25 years in being a real leader within Schlegel Villages and beyond, to the point where the deputy minister of health, Dr. Bob Bell, is looking to us for answers to the aging demographic, which is upon us at this time.

“Winston,” he said, “is the centre where it all starts from,” and that is certainly worth celebrating.