You can come home again.
Vera Beale was one of 15 residents who are back home at Medicine Tree Manor after losing her residence in the 2013 flood.
“I always knew I was going to come back here,” Beale said at the grand reopening of the manor in High River on Thursday. “We came home. It’s fantastic. I am very fortunate – I have the same room I had before the flood. This is a beautiful day.”
Good things happen to those who wait. The manor was evacuated during the flood and more than 100 residents lost their home. The facility was 3.5 months from reopening when disaster struck again in December 2015. An electrical fire in the vacant facility meant residents had to delay their return.
The residents finally returned home in October 2017. The official grand opening last week included Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson, High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass, Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson, members of Okotoks and MD of Foothills councils and most importantly, the residents.
The manor has a long history in High River, having opened in 1960.
“It’s been a long road to get where we stand today inside this beautiful completely rebuild Medicine Tree Manor,” Sigurdson said. “For some of you that road started in 2013 when southern Alberta was devastated by flooding — I said the ‘F’ word.”
She said High Riverites and southern Albertans remained resilient even after the fire.
“Despite this setback, the community firmly believed that seniors needed another option for affordable housing,” Sigurdson said. “They turned a disaster into an opportunity.”
The 15 residents weren’t the only ones to return, so did many of the staff who helped get the seniors safely out of the facility nearly five years ago, including Westwinds Communities CAO Lauren Ingalls.
“The journey to date has been one of loss, healing, sacrifice, hard work and a lot of laughter and a lot of perseverance,” Ingalls said. “But it’s definitely worth the effort and the result.”
She saved some important items from the 2013 flood. Ingalls collected some food, a salad bar, a pot, a ladle and can opener on that fateful day, which she delivered to Highwood High School to help evacuees. While the food was used quickly, the cooking stuff never left her vehicle.
“I became determined that the pot, the ladle and the can opener would not return to Medicine Tree Manor until it re-opened,” she said.
The pot was presented to manor program manager Tanya Bristow under thunderous applause.
“This pot cooked many meals in the manor,” Ingalls said. “A lot of meals with TC and added to our residents’ happiness. It still has a lot of life to live, it still enriches lives and has a lot to give – much like our residents.”
Someone who will enjoy food from the pot is 84-year-old resident Flores Groeneveld, a former MD of Foothills reeve who was on the Foothills Foundation board of directors, the predecessor for Westinds, for 17 years.
“I got tired of my cooking,” said Groeneveld, who moved into the manor in November. “I am really enjoying it. There is plenty to do and get involved with if you want to.”
The cost of the renovations is estimated at $21-million. The new Manor replaces three buildings of vintages from 1960 to 2008, and is designed for baby boomers with flexible dining times to allow our residents to freely come and go, a bistro, media room, library, spa room, hair dresser, treatment room, exercise room, art walk, sun decks, games room, family dining room for private functions, a scented garden and walking paths.
Medicine Tree Manor features 100 suites, including studio and one and two bedroom with hospitality services. The bedroom suites feature kitchens or kitchenettes and all suites come with appliances.
Residents of Medicine Tree Manor entertain the guests at the grand opening of the senior citizens’ facility on Feb. 22 in High River. The manor was shut down after the flood of 2013.