After two long years of pandemic response, Knollcrest Lodge prepares 50th anniversary celebrations

After two long years of pandemic response, Knollcrest Lodge prepares 50th anniversary celebrations

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Sarah Tutti has experienced a lot throughout her 30-year career in long-term care, but she’s hard-pressed to come up with anything that compares to her first four months at Knollcrest Lodge in Milverton.

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“The amount of services that we are able to provide this community blows my mind,” said Tutti, who stepped into the home’s chief executive role in January. “Knollcrest is very fortunate. (Milverton) is one of the most engaged communities I’ve ever experienced before and it goes beyond our system partners. The Milverton Business Association, the Lions Club, we’re so interconnected here. If you need something, or if you need to get to know someone, someone will be able to answer your questions.”

Support for Knollcrest in the rural Perth County community north of Stratford dates back to its very beginnings in May 1972. A group of residents launched a plan to build a not-for-profit home for the elderly four years earlier, eventually securing a chunk of government funding that brought them close to the $850,000 they needed. The rest, necessary to purchase essential items such as furniture, came from local donations that helped established a strong connection between Knollcrest and the surrounding community.

That connection was strengthened 30 years later when Knollcrest began to look a little more like it does today. In 2001, Milverton and District Medical Clinic opened in what was previously a basement dining room. Seven years later, Knollcrest nearly doubled in size, celebrating a major addition that included new living spaces, dining rooms, and lounges.

Today Knollcrest’s 130 staff members help manage 80 licensed long-term care beds, but that’s only a fraction of the community-wide services that now run through the home. 

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Besides the medical clinic, Milverton residents – including its significant Anabaptist community – can find midwives, physiotherapists, and dentists at Knollcrest, which is now best described as a wellness campus. The home’s community outreach team also offers various services in the community, including three shuttles funded by the Township of Perth East and United Way Perth Huron that provide important access to health and wellness appointments inside and outside the region.

Community outreach is “what really makes this home unique,” Tutti said. “It’s a community hub.”

Saturday marked Knollcrest’s 50th anniversary. During an outdoor gathering that included board members, staff, health care partners and other local officials, Deb Shwydiuk, president of the home’s residents’ council, reminisced about her 16 years there.

“When I first moved here it was the original building where two residents shared a room,” she said. “We are now standing in front of a home where every resident has their own living space. The rebuild was an amazing experience to witness.”

Both Shwydiuk and Andrew Williams, the chief executive of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, one of Knollcrest’s partners in the Huron Perth Ontario Health Team, acknowledged the burden staff have carried during the past two years. Knollcrest has experienced seven separate COVID-19 outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I know the work that you’ve done here to remain safe and to do what’s best for your residents is outstanding,” Williams said. “It’s not lost on any of us who work in healthcare that the hardest hit area has been long-term care.”

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The pandemic is not over, especially for the long-term care sector, but a committee at Knollcrest is planning to celebrate the anniversary with Milverton over the next several months. In July, residents and their families will enjoy a meal and entertainment to commemorate the anniversary before a fundraising walk-a-thon is revived in Milverton this September.

Those events will add to small touches at the home, including a new apple tree and a cast iron plaque for the front garden, and a time capsule that will be placed in a new courtyard currently under construction.

Saturday’s event was the first Knollcrest has been able to host in over two years and Tutti said staff and residents are looking forward to reconnecting with the community this year as much as they can.

“This is the closest thing to normal that we have experienced in a long time,” she said Saturday. “Without (the community’s) generosity it would have been very difficult or impossible. When they say it takes a village, it really has taken a village and that’s why I came here. Milverton’s very engaged.”

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