20th anniversary of St Hedwig Village
|From left: CEO Kathy Eberl, resident Ida Nemeth who is 100, and Pam Moore, Director of Nursing. Photo: Virginia Knight.|
By Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook, May 2012
On 23 February 2012, St Hedwig Village celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of its nursing home as part of its aged care and retirement complex in Blacktown.
The St Hedwig community commemorated the milestone with a Mass celebrated by Fr Cristian Uptmoor, followed by a flag ceremony and presentation of certificates to several long-term residents, volunteers and staff.
In 1986, two German communities St Raphael’s at Blacktown and St Christophorus at Croydon pooled their resources to build an aged care complex with assistance from the Federal Government. St Hedwig’s hostel was completed and opened in 1989, and before long the need for a nursing home was also identified.
The President of the St Hedwig Board, Jack Hanich, said their mission was to provide a home for those who cannot look after themselves in a ‘homelike’ environment.
“At St Hedwig, we care for our elders in a Christian environment and give them the opportunity to age here with dignity. That is what we are trying to achieve and I think we do it well.”
He said that in the beginning St Hedwig was built to predominantly cater to the German-speaking community. Today, more than 50% of the residents are not of German origin, and St Hedwig now represents a mixture of cultures.
|From left: Manfred Kersch, board member; Kathy Eberl, CEO; Jack Hanich, President of Board; Sue Rose, PA to CEO. Photo: Virginia Knight.|
St Hedwig’s CEO, Kathy Eberl, said the centre has continued to grow and expand its facilities and services to cope with the growing demands for aged care and the way that quality care is delivered to residents.
Introducing the Flag Ceremony, Kathy said the occasion was not only to mark the anniversary but to celebrate the village’s cultural diversity. “St Hedwig Village is a vibrant multicultural facility with 132 residents from 22 nationalities and we employ some 130 staff from 24 different countries. While this does present its challenges, it also demonstrates that multiculturalism is alive and well in St Hedwig Village.”
Staff member Sue Rose said that the residents had been involved in the lead-up to the day’s festivities. “Some of our residents have been in the nursing home for a long time and celebrations like this get them excited. Even those who are not able to be involved just love attending.”
St Hedwig runs a range of interesting and innovative programs, which add to the unique atmosphere of the village. Companion animals are regularly brought in to interact with the residents of the nursing home and the Volunteer Program for overseas students, which has been running for 10 years, is unique to the organisation.
Young students from Germany who wish to combine volunteer social work experience with travel come to stay and work at the centre for up to six months. “The residents love having them here,” Kathy said. “They have the opportunity to experience life in Australia and some go home to become doctors, nurses or social workers.”
The Director of Nursing, Pam Moore, said the organisation often has celebrations, but it is not possible without the enthusiastic participation of the staff and the many local volunteers. “We are blessed with a very committed and caring staff at St Hedwig. It is a very happy atmosphere, a real community atmosphere.”
One of those honoured with a certificate was volunteer Margaret Hansen who came to the community in 1992 when her husband was admitted to the nursing home.
“She has since continued to be part of the family,” Kathy said. “She comes in every week to play bingo and trivia with the residents and they look forward to her visits. “When we celebrate an occasion like this we tend to look back on what was, and the journey that brought us to the present. Today we can reflect on our past, celebrate the present and look to the future and how St Hedwig Village will need to continue to grow and change.”
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