The past year has provided enormous challenges and sadness for the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre. It also provided opportunities to demonstrate our character, innovation and perseverance, and to experience happiness for every Resident who emerged from the Covid unit free of the virus. Our recovery parades, celebrating each returning Resident, have had national and likely international exposure, and have been emulated by other seniors’ residences. However, these celebrations are balanced against our feelings of loss for the 12 Residents who did not survive the virus, and for their families and friends. While we are not out of the woods yet, initial indicators are good that the worst may be behind us. As Laurie Cerqueti, our CEO, has said on several occasions, the next eight weeks will tell the tale. There is no doubt that things are starting to look up; in-person visits with Residents, by designated individuals with precautions, began on January 18th. Residents’ vaccinations begin on January 26th, and many staff have been, or will be, vaccinated.
In every way the managers, staff, volunteers, and community-at-large, have met the challenges brought about by this virus. We, as members of the Board, are very proud of, and impressed by, the ability and willingness of everyone at the Centre to come to work every day, and in some cases even sleep over, with positive and caring attitudes. The care and concern for our Residents is their priority, as is the wellbeing of our Residents’ family members and friends who were unable to visit with them for so many months. The frequent updates provided by the Centre, both those with positive and troubling messages, were appreciated by our Residents’ families and friends, as we strived to keep them fully aware of the situation at the Centre. Facebook is full of photos of our Residents and our staff that are updated on a continuous basis, as is the Simkin Star, an online publication. We were able to convert existing space into a Covid unit that was staffed around the clock with nurses and health care aids who volunteered to provide this service. Recreation staff and volunteers visited Residents in their rooms to brighten their days. Others facilitated Residents’ FaceTime and Skype visits with family members and friends. A sense of shared purpose and comraderie has emerged among our staff, family members and volunteers as a result of these experiences.
A call went out for volunteers and the Centre received many offers from people both inside and outside of Winnipeg’s Jewish community. Volunteers assisted with meals and folded the many gowns that are ubiquitous around the Centre. Family members and other supportive community members, including members of the Board, donated funds to sponsor meals or provided treats for staff in recognition of the stressful situations they were enduring. Several Hutterite communities responded by providing many boxes of isolation gowns they produced specifically for the Centre. This included the Crystal Springs, New Rosedale, Elm River, Netley River and Decker Hutterite communities. Our Covid fundraising campaign also yielded incredible financial support for the Centre.
I acknowledge, with gratitude, our leadership team members, who went far beyond their normal responsibilities and work hours to help keep our Residents as safe as possible, and to support the frontline staff at the Centre. They include Laurie Cerqueti (CEO); Alanna Kull (Director of Care); Sara Reid (Assistant Director of Care); Dr. Sheldon Koven (Medical Director); Cindy Greenlay (Manager of Therapeutic Recreation and Support Services); Aujah Fowler-Thomas (Social Worker/Admissions); Lisa Back (Dietitian Manager of Food Services); Jason Anderson (Chief Financial Officer); Renee Gray (Payroll/Benefits and Human Resources Manager); and Janet Conrad (Executive Assistant to the CEO).
In closing, I thank our funders for their continuing support during these difficult times. They include: the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Jewish Foundation, the Simkin Centre Foundation, the Winnipeg Foundation, the Asper Foundation, Manitoba Health, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, and the Government of Canada.
Gerry Kaplan, Chair