Engagement with the broader community helps bring meaning and joy to elders living in The Eden Alternative-registered Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon, Canada.
Community involvement has been an ongoing and important Sherbrooke value since its inception and commitment to community is a core objective of our organization. We do this, not only because it is an essential tool for gaining community respect, garnering support and being a good corporate citizen but also because it helps the public reframe their views of long term care as a place where “old folks” spend their declining years.
In Canada approximately 5-7% of the population lives in a long term care home. For those that need this level of support we have the important job and privilege of bringing the world to them. Leadership in the community and a genuine desire to engage with the community makes our elders proud and surely pride in our work, our home, our community is one of the things that contribute to a life worth living. We encourage you to find in your community those institutions, organizations, groups, schools, clubs and people who can enrich the lives of elders.
Like everything that makes a difference these opportunities take work. So how do we make it happen? It is pretty simple, everyone in Sherbrooke plays a role. A spark of an idea can come from anywhere in the organization. If it is seen as a feasible idea based on available resources then we move forward. It is important to note that we can’t do everything and people in the community often ask us to get involved in something like a walk-a-thon and sometimes we have to say no. However, if elders are interested and we have the human resources to pull it off we will.
Usually one person takes the lead or coordinates a particular project or event. The facilitator could be from any area of the building including housekeeping, maintenance, food services or human resources. The facilitator makes sure that everyone completes their tasks and that the event is ready to proceed on time and on budget. Global events, those that involve the whole community are often led by the Manager of Global Events and Volunteers.
One example is our 40th Anniversary Celebrations. One of our goals was to plant 40 dozen tulips with elders. We wanted to make it a community event so we called one of our partnership schools and they organized a class of 6th graders who assisted elders to plant the tulips. The teacher talked about the value of community involvement and helping others and being a part of their neighbourhood. And then they went to work. Previously our master gardener and maintenance staff dug up the flower beds. The master gardener educated the class about how to ready the soil, using compost collected by elders, and helped them stake out the pattern for the plants.
The team set up chairs around the area for viewing and planting. Staff, families and volunteers assisted elders to the site on the edge of our property. Because the school was in the neighbourhood no transportation costs were incurred. In our experience, people in the community are looking for opportunities to engage. It is important to build on the resources we have cultivated in the community and engage them in our events, creating a more interesting and diverse community experience. Everyone had a wonderful time and this spring we will enjoy the fruits of our labour; a new bed of vibrant, multi-coloured tulips.
Below we have included a list of some of the partnerships we have built and continue to nurture.
Where our residents volunteer, mentor and participate:
- Wounded Warriors, Veterans Groups, Remembrance Day Events
- Schools at all levels and community associations
- Local community garden, Berry Patch, they compost, recycle, garden and thereby reduce our environmental foot print
- Elders participate in Sherbrooke Secret Santa and Free the Children, adopting a village in Sierra Leon through the Me to We Program with our partnership schools
Elders volunteer with:
- Saskatchewan Jazz and Blues Festivals
- Sherbrooke Creative energy – Open Mike Night
- Mentoring at local schools
- Fund raisers
Sherbrooke gives back to the community that supports us:
- Exchange Program with Canada world Youth. We invite students from Nicaragua to Sherbrooke to participate in a cultural and volunteer exchange
- Katimivik another student volunteer and exchange program with youth from across Canada
- Practicum and internship opportunities for students (U of S, Technical schools)
- Art experiences for children using wheelchairs, canes and other mobility aids to paint and draw
- Building an accessible playground on our property for neighbourhood children
- Nature opportunities with ACTEL Students from a neighbourhood school
- Provide an enriched environment for the 36 space Oak Trees and Acorns Childcare Centre at Sherbrooke
- Sherbrooke Adult community Day Program
- Moving On Program for younger disabled people who live in the community
- The Mindful Café for family members living with a spouse with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
- Tumbleweed Gift and Thrift Shop for Elders, staff and the community
- Annual Home Fires Newsletter delivered to 1400 Saskatoon Homes
- Encourage families to bring their children to Sherbrooke and staff to involve children in our community ( Bring your kid to work Day)
- Encourage staff to bring their pets to work.
- Create a welcoming and fun environment that invites the community to be part of our world
- Art and Music events
- Pet Rescue events for the community an environment that outsiders want to be in