St. Luke’s Place

by Jun 12, 2022Turner Tales0 comments

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St. Luke's Church

St. Luke’s Place – Part I

by Lary Turner

In 1955, Mary (Stenhouse) Clemens donated part of her parents’ farm to the Hespeler United Church in the hope that “something might happen” with her gift. Her generosity set in motion a unique development that continues to this day, and into the future!

Six years later, the congregation began the construction of a new church that would be named Saint Luke’s United Church. At the time there was a great need in Hespeler for senior’s accommodations and at the suggestion of Mrs. Charles Stager, a portion of the donated land was set aside for a senior’s home. Under the leadership of Rev. W. Fern, the church administration embarked on a creative plan to proceed and authorized the trustees to incorporate.

Rev. Craig Railton, the church’s new minister and Mr. Erwin Nelson, Chair of the Church Trustees, were appointed as an investigation committee. This committee had a vast amount of work to make this venture a reality, so a Board of Directors was appointed. Members came from all walks of life, as well as from other local churches, but always with three members of Saint Luke’s United Church on the Board. Mr. Ervin Nelson was named Chair, with Rev. Craig Railton as Vice-Chair. 

Erwin Nelson

Erwin Nelson

The plan adopted for the facility was unique and the first of its kind in Canada! The new concept was a combination of living, recreational, health care and commercial facilities in a building of wings spread out in the inviting setting with room for future expansion. Continuum care affords a great sense of security for residents, as when necessary, they can move from apartments to other wings where assisted living is available in various forms.

This concept was so new and unique that the Government of Canada used the plan in a Vancouver “Habitat” presentation to show the world how senior citizen’s housing should be done!

The new facility would bear the name St. Luke’s Place; apply chosen and symbolic as Saint Luke was a physician and healer and followed Christ’s pleading to care for one’s fellow man. Official sod turning for St. Luke’s Place occurred on May 9, 1976 with the Hon. Rene Brunelle, Minister of Community & Social Services and Mrs. Charles Stager turning the first shovelful. In his remarks the Minister said the planned health spa, craft room and other features sounded like an advertisement for a holiday resort!

Construction had begun in November, 1975 and St. Luke’s Place opened for use in September, 1976, with 74 apartment units and 76 residential beds in the nursing unit, at a total cost of $3 million dollars. Funding for the project came from all levels of government, United Church of Canada, all local churches, large companies, organizations and individual contributors.

With occupancy, the Royal Bank of Canada established banking facilities at St. Luke’s one day a week and a walk-a-thon was held to raise money for a bus (the Stauffer Foundation generously contributed the balance needed). Other amenities followed: swimming pool, pool tables, beauty salon, library, Bible study group, men’s discussion club, and “The Lookout” built by the Stager family in honour of their parents; to name just a few.

A tenant’s Association and a Resident’s Council was formed and greatly helped to serve the needs or problems that might arise. The St. Luke’s Place Ladies Auxillary has provided many comforts for the home by hosting bazaars, teas, card parties and bake sales. A store and coffee bar have become the hub of the home, a meeting place for friendly groups.

By 1982, a long waiting list of seniors wishing to move in warranted an expansion. In 1984, D-Wing, with 58 one-bedroom apartments, was added to A-Wing by way of a beautiful “glass bridge”; a place for plants, books, games and seating. The strong demand for continuum care necessitated the addition of E-Wing in 1988. This new wing allowed the addition of a large auditorium.

By 1992, the Board of Directors answered the need for additional funding by creating the St. Luke’s Place Foundation. The Foundation hosts a yearly community picnic to draw the community together and focused on fund raising for a “special care unit” designed to offer confused residents an increased quality of life. The unit opened in 1996. Other projects have included a new bus and the Emergency Voice Call System for the 132 apartments.

St. Luke’s Place residents enjoy a sense of contentment, comfort, security, deep caring by the nursing staff and the friendliness of all staff in general!

As St. Luke’s Place closes in on five decades of operation, a major renovation and future expansion is on the drawing board (I will cover that in Part 2 of the St. Luke’s story).



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