When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, many long-term care and retirement homes across the country grappled with immense pressure. There were so many unknowns and among the great challenges was ensuring care teams were stable, especially in homes that saw people off in 14-day isolation because of exposure to the virus or caring for children uprooted from school.
To answer this need for stability, Schlegel Villages created what came to be known as the SPRINT team, (Schlegel People Responding in Necessary Times), a rapid response mechanism to allow team members from a Village not affected by COVID-19 to support another that was.
“The people in our Villages are all part of the same culture,” says Christy Parsons, vice-president of people with Schlegel Villages. “We’re part of the same family, so when one member of the family was struggling, we knew others would want to step in whatever way they could.”
Angelo Ciardella and Trenee Webster are both personal support workers from The Village at St. Clair in Windsor; Trenee also doubles as a registered practical nurse and they are both studying to be registered nurses. Thankfully, their home Village was only touched briefly by COVID-19 while Erin Mills Lodge in Mississauga, as well as The Village of Humber Heights and The Village of Erin Meadows, faced the full weight of outbreak.
Neither hesitated when the SPRINT team call went out.
You would think it was a difficult decision but it wasn’t really,” Trenee says. “I just felt like I needed to. I’m fortunate and I have two hands and I can help; everything was telling me to do it and I just had this push in my heart.”
Like Trenee, Angelo only had to think on it over a few days. He spoke with his family and looked within himself to the drive that calls him to be a caregiver, and he was soon travelling to a city he’s never visited to work alongside a team he’d never met.
They were in Mississauga for two months and became an integral part of the team at Erin Mills Lodge.
“I kept seeing on the news how some homes were really being affected by the coronavirus,” Angelo says, “and with us at St. Clair having been so lucky that we really hadn’t been affected, but I could see how difficult it was for us with the restrictions, I couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for these homes that had really been affected.”
He admits he had some reservations, “but I was available, I don’t have kids or commitments keeping me at home and I knew that the work I would be doing would be really important.”
And it was.
Their contribution and those of the other team members who answered the call, helped more than words can describe and the team at Erin Mills Lodge welcomed them with open arms of gratitude.
Both Trenee and Angelo can’t say enough about the experience, not only in terms of answering a personal calling, but in terms of their education. They learned from their new teams and they will carry that knowledge with them throughout their career.
To be a true caregiver is to offer the best of oneself to others in often difficult situations, and the SPRINT Team exemplifies that spirit. “The team members who stayed and those who travelled when called upon all hold the values of the organization close,” Christy says, “and they are a source of pride and inspiration for us all.”