Standing from left to right: Rebecca Cotter-Wilkinson, Program Coordinator and Manager of Resident Support; Angel Graitson, Executive Director; Robert Gunn, President of the Alberni Valley Abbeyfield Society and Secretary of the Abbeyfield Canada Board; Bertha Levesque, resident. PHOTO COURTESY ORLANDO DELANO

VALLEY SENIORS: Abbeyfield in Port Alberni celebrates 17 years

Abbeyfield Port Alberni is the home of 21 permanent residents



The Port Alberni Abbeyfield community is celebrating its 17th year of operation since the doors of the seniors’ home opened to welcome its first 18 residents in August 2002, and the 16th anniversary since its official opening by the Lieutenant General of BC.

“After 17 years in the community, the original belief of Terry Whyte, and the confidence of the council, led by Gillian Trumper and Donna Brett, has been proved,” said Robert Gunn, president of the Alberni Valley Abbeyfield Society and secretary of the Abbeyfield Canada Board. “The great work of many volunteer board members over the years, and the generosity of the community, residents and families and local organizations have all combined to build a comfortable and well liked house for its residents.”

Today, Abbeyfield is the home of 21 permanent residents and it is affiliated with Abbeyfield Canada and Abbeyfield International Societies, complying with the societies’ Guiding Principles mandate:

– Seniors often seek companionship and practical support in their daily living while remaining integrated in the larger community.

– Seniors have an important role to play in the lives of their families, friends and communities.

– Individuals can secure a happy life within the companionship of other seniors.

“I moved to Abbeyfield over 10 years ago and I never regretted it,” says Bertha Levesque, the longest stay resident, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday.

The history of Abbeyfield began in 1956 when Major Richard Carr-Gomm resigned his commission with the British Army and bought a property in South London for £250. It was run down and had six rooms, no bathroom or outdoor lavatory and two cold taps. It was meant to provide housing for four people – the only qualification being loneliness. He was the first housekeeper and was dubbed by the press “The Scrubbing Major.”

Today, there are hundreds of Abbeyfield houses in over a dozen countries around the globe, including 21 societies in Canada. Sidney, B.C. opened an Abbeyfield home in 1987, becoming the first home of its kind in the country.

Throughout 17 years of operation, Port Alberni’s Abbeyfield has experienced a number changes among the resident population, as well as the staff and volunteer rotation. It has also seen many physical changes to the building, aimed to improve the comfort of the senior population. These changes have been made possible thanks to the dedicated work by the volunteer members of the Board of Directors who run this non-profit organization.

Among the various features Abbeyfield has to offer are a home-like atmosphere, lunch and dinner served by the staff, food and equipment for residents to prepare their own breakfast and snack, an ongoing set of programs of activities, including musical performances, guest speakers, etc., a house-owned bus for residents outings, comfortable communal areas indoors and outdoors and laundry facilities at no extra cost.

“Our Abbeyfield is a great place to work,” said Angel Graitson, executive director, who joined a year and a half ago as a cook/housekeeper. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the facilitating of this organization. I am also grateful for the staff and volunteers who make Abbeyfield a friendly, safe and happy home for our seniors.”

“The last year has been an incredible journey full of love and laughter,” said Rebecca Cotter-Wilkinson, program coordinator and manager of resident support. “I spend my days playing and having fun with the best group of seniors in the Valley!” She adds that a typical week might include visiting the “flying goats,” enjoying ice cream on a mountain top and listening to live musical performances ,as well as going on field trips to the most amazing scenery and culture on the Island. “We are more than a retirement facility,” she added. “We are family and this is our home.”

Abbeyfield Canada offers, “A warm, family-style house with balance between privacy and companionship, security and independence.”

For information about Abbeyfield Port Alberni, please phone at 250-724-5054.

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