This Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the 'Caravan of Kindness' that marked the beginning of Providence Healthcare in Scarborough.
Jan. 28, 1962 was the day the residents were moved from the original House of Providence downtown to a new building on St. Clair Avenue, between Warden and Pharmacy avenues, that was once the site of a farm used to supply the food at the House of Providence.
The first House of Providence was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1857 and located on Power Street downtown; the relocation was necessary as the building was slated for demolition to make way for the expansion of the Don Valley Parkway.
During its 50 year history in Scarborough, Providence has operated under several different names, but its mission has remained the same.
It has helped thousands of people through the years including Karen Moloney.
The Scarborough resident ended up at Providence after she hit her head in a fall and needed rehabilitation care. She was at The Scarborough Hospital for nearly three weeks before being transferred. She was at Providence for a month before being discharged earlier this week - she wanted to stay for some of the 50th anniversary celebrations that began on Thursday morning.
"I'm really impressed with what's going on here," she said.
After the move to Scarborough, the House of Providence was renamed Providence Villa and Hospital to better reflect its new focus on providing residential care and rehabilitation, particularly to older adults. In 1990, the name was changed again to Providence Centre and then in 2004 the facility, which was expanded to include a long-term residence in 2000, was renamed Providence Healthcare. It offers rehabilitation, long-term care, palliative care, community programs and caregiver support.
While Moloney's experience at Providence has been challenging, she said the staff and volunteers have helped to make it more enjoyable.
Volunteers such as Vera Newman who has been volunteering since 1998, right after she retired and found herself bored with all her free time.
"I've been hanging around ever since," she said.
Newman is a very popular fixture at Providence where she provides some pampering to patients and residents. Every Wednesday she hosts a spa day for residents in the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence (the 288 unit long-term care residence) and on Tuesday afternoons she does spa house calls for patients in the hospital.
"These are nice people. If we can make them feel better for the last few years (of their life) we can give them dignity," Newman said.
"That's why I do nails because if your nails look nice they're just so happy and it makes them feel good."
She offers a range of colours from the more subtle nudes and blushes to the eye catching greens and bright red. Newman also does arm massages with cream to complete the spa experience.
Newman's experience with Providence isn't limited to volunteering, five years ago she hurt her hip while on vacation in Cuba and ended up at Providence for four and a half weeks.
"They treated me just great," she said.
She had more visitors than most with many of the women of the Houses coming to see her.
"As soon as I could I was back," Newman said. "It's a wonderful place, that's why I stayed (all these years)."
Moloney has learned what a wonderful place it is over the past month. She even used the time to read about the history of the organization located right in her own community.
She's enjoyed being so close to home.
"It means my husband can come twice a day and I get to see him," she said.
She added the two take a walk each night through the hospital's Memory Lane, a hallway full of artifacts and information about Providence's 154-year-old history, which opened late last year.
That opening was a teaser for the many celebrations that are to take place during 2012, which began with staff and employees being greeted Thursday morning with coffee and an anniversary pocket calendar and was followed by the presentation of the Living Our Values awards Thursday afternoon.
The anniversary theme will be part of a summer barbecue and gala fundraiser in the fall.