Guy P. Bagnall was a man ahead of his time and the community benefits from his vision more than 100 years after the Boer War veteran arrived in Vernon in 1906.
He was over 80 when he saw a need for affordable housing for local seniors and this year Vernon Restholm celebrates its 50th birthday.
“There was considerable discussion and some resistance but he persevered to get the city and province on board,” said Jerry Tellier, Vernon Restholm Association manager.
Bagnall found his first board members in 1960 and kept working to get the provincial government to fund one-third of the land cost and the City of Vernon to give $35,000 toward construction which cost $250,000. The Vernon Restholm Society was and remains a non-profit society with no government assistance. Funding comes from rentals, community donations and fund raising.
The cost for the first 11 residents was $125 per month for room and meals. There are now 50 residents in 47 rooms (three couples’ suites) with the cost of $1,085 (some residents get government rental supplement, depending on circumstances) for room and meals, personal needs extra.
“We know we’re doing something right because the waiting list is six to 18 months and people stay until they need more care, everyone here is independent, some have cars. They come because they don’t want to keep up a house or they want the companionship,” said Tellier, a former officer in the Calgary City Police. “One of the advantages here is the location and another is because we’re just the right size. There’s a good atmosphere. Our staff members are here for the right reasons and we have some who have been here for up to 30 years, many for 20 years or getting close to it.
“And we have wonderful volunteers who help us with many activities and programs. We have had several residents who celebrated their 100th birthday here and the oldest was Sam Copeland who was 102 in 1976.”
There is a staff member on duty 24 hours a day and the society hopes to get a van soon for outings.
“I really like it here. It’s helping people and hearing their stories. It’s the most enjoyable work I’ve ever done,” said Tellier.
There was one rough time. Around 1994 there was a shortage of intermediate health care in the area and Restholm took some residents with more costly health care needs. It seemed that it might have to close because of high costs but going back to its original purpose and a major fundraising campaign saved the society and the building.
Zoe Cundall has lived at Restholm for four years. There was never any doubt in her mind that she would move there when the time was right for her.
“I used to volunteer at Schubert Centre for 20 years and so many people from Restholm came over and they always said such nice things about this place and how happy they were — that the staff was congenial and they liked the other residents. I find that to be true,” she said.
“It’s the perfect place for me. I enjoy helping with the sing-alongs and the place is so homelike and the price is right. The yard and garden are fabulous and it’s so close to downtown but it’s quiet. It’s reassuring that someone is always here at night and the volunteers are so good to us. Oh, yes, and we’ve got really good cooks, the meals are excellent. I hope everyone comes to the tea May 28 to help us celebrate.”
Restholm invites the community to a complimentary birthday tea May 28 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.