January 23, 2017: Field Trip to Mikkelson House, a Bethany Riverview seniors' housing facility with speakers: Jennifer McCue and Evelyn Buckley.
Today's meeting took place at Mikkelson House, a Bethany Riverview seniors' housing facility, to celebrate the partnership between Rotary and Bethany and kick off the fundraising for the Atrium.
It was a sold-out affair, bringing together the Bethany leaders and board, along with representatives from other District 5360 Rotary clubs and DG Neil Berg. Greeted by Saskia Knight, David Williams and Judy Cochran, and checked in by Steve Strang and Don Vokey, we all entered the facility surrounded by displays of plans.
President Terry Felton welcomed us all. Robyn Braley led the national anthem, and DG Neil Berg provided the invocation. President Terry recognized Bethany leaders Jerry Rasmussen, chairman of the board, and Jennifer McCue, president and CEO, as well as Rotarians Tony Knight and Evelyn Buckley. He then turned the meeting over to Dan Doherty, our master of ceremonies for the day.
Dan introduced the first speaker, Jennifer McCue. Jennifer earned her BSc in nursing and a MSc in Health Services Administration. She has provided operational leadership for several multi-million dollar health care projects and worked with Health Canada during the Kananaskis G8 Summit.
Jennifer told us of the need for care facilities for those with Alzheimer's. Dementia is a progressive cognitive impairment that affects over 500,000 Canadians. By 2038, an estimated 1 in 10 Albertans over the age of 65, and nearly half of those over the age of 90, are expected to be living with dementia. The population of Canadian citizens over 65 has now surpassed the number of children under the age of 15. As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of Albertans living with dementia is expected to more than double. With 25,000 diagnosed cases every year, over 900,000 Canadians are expected to be living with dementia in the next 15 years. Dementia will affect, whether direct or indirectly, over 1 million Canadians. With the aging population, the need for improved senior care facilities and programs has increased and will continue to grow.
Absence of care, deteriorating health and increasing degree of affliction are all factors contributing to the need of seniors to seek a care facility solution. Hospitals are not designed or prepared to accept this influx of new chronic care patients. While the government has contributed $66 million for the Riverside facility, they do not fund any extras to improve the quality of life. This is where the Atrium comes in.
The goal is to normalize the lives of the residents as much as possible. This means providing an environment that is safe and secure, while comfortable and providing freedom to wander without barriers. Those suffering from dementia find joy in the moment. The Atrium, a year-round indoor green space, will provide an area for Bethany residents, family, staff, volunteers, community visitors and Rotarians to gather and engage with each other. It will reduce stress and provide a place of peace and happiness.
To conclude, everyone in the audience was given a poster of a Bethany resident, each with their own story. It was a powerful moment to put faces on the clients and make it more real.
Next, Dan introduced our own honorary Rotary Club of Calgary West member, Evelyn Buckley. Evelyn was born and lived all her life in Alberta. She received her nursing diploma from the Calgary General Hospital, and later a diploma in Social Work from Mount Royal College. She and Clarence have ranched and raised their family on their farm on the outskirts of Calgary. She has held numerous professional responsibilities in health care and not-for-profit leaderships.
Evelyn has worked tirelessly in advocating for seniors. As a board member of the Bethany Care Society, she led the creation of innovative long-term care projects including the Harvest Hills Centre which has been recognized as one of the best architecturally designed Alzheimer's homes in North America.
Among her many awards are an honourary Doctorate in Divinity from St. Andrews College, University of Saskatchewan. Other awards and honours include an Integrity Award and Paul Harris Fellowship. In recognition for her life of service and leadership, Evelyn has received admission to the Alberta Order of Excellence.
Evelyn provided a fascinating and wonderful story of her life growing up and her inspiration to make a difference. She grew up on the family farm which used to be on 19th Ave. The site of the Bethany Riverview complex is in fact on land that used to be her family's farm. She remembers growing up poor. Her father taught her the meaning of "hand up rather than hand out" when itinerants would show up on their doorstep. They were assigned chores, like hauling wood and coal, in return for a square meal. It was important that they earned this meal for their own dignity and self-respect.
With no money for university, earning $1.25/day at the Bay, Evelyn chose nursing as a profession before marrying Clarence and going to live and raise a family on his family farm. They had few amenities, no indoor plumbing or water. She recalls Clarence's mother teaching her to hide her "dainties" on the clothes line inside a pillow case, lest they be seen by the ranch hands. She remembers making 64 sandwiches for their employees to take with them working the ranch.
When Clarence became a Rotarian in 1968, there were no women allowed in. Evelyn remembers being invited to join the "Rotary Anns", wives of Rotarians, for a bridge game on Monday. Going there, she felt like Cinderella. But afterward, she had an epiphany "Is this all there is?" She resolved to make a difference.
After the kids were all in school, Evelyn worked for both non-profit and government organisations. In 1990, she visited a Care West facility that claimed to offer a "new way" of treating seniors with Alzheimer's. On the ground floor, she saw the lightly afflicted clients enjoying the nice facility. However, when she pressed them to take her to see the more advanced cases, they reluctantly took her upstairs. Here she saw clients tied into their wheelchairs, dirty and poorly cared for. When she asked the reason for this shabby treatment, the reply was, "They don't know the difference, so why should we care?" This inspired her to spearhead the Harvest Hills project.
To conclude, Evelyn stated how pleased she was to have played the role of matchmaker between Bethany and Rotary. She quoted the parable of the faithful servant: "For whom much is given, much is expected", and paraphrased the Christina Rossetti poem "What can I bring, poor as I am?". She asked us to consider the Atrium project in our charitable donations, and to give generously.
She received a standing ovation.
Now attention was turned to fundraising. The following were recognised for their generous gifts and photographed handing over ceremonial cheques to Bethany's Jerry Rasmussen and Jennifer McCue:
Next, the Rotary clubs of District 5360 who have committed support were brought forward to present their ceremonial cheques:
And finally, an unexpected cheque for $1,000 was donated by Lisa Poole.
A donation of $500 was made via the OurAtrium website by Joel and Jennifer Semmens, long-time friends of PP Tony, who attended the meeting.
Dan and Terry wrapped up the meeting, asking us all to help raise awareness of Alzheimer's by talking it up with friends, family and co-workers. The total raised so far is $521,000 of the required $1 million.
Thus ended an inspiring and uplifting meeting, the product of two years of hard work by Rotarians and Bethany.
Please visit the project website: www.OurAtrium.com
reported by Duncan Stanners
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