Residents and supporters celebrated the end of a two-year redevelopment of the Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s (PFS) care site in Evington, Leicester, with a tape-cutting ceremony and a service at local Wycliffe United Reformed Church.
Residents and supporters cheered as Alan Copeman, chairman of the PFS, and Rev. Paul Bassett from Melbourne Hall cut the tape to mark the start of a new phase of life on the site.
The church was packed for the thanksgiving service. Roger Hitchings, retired pastor of East Leake Evangelical Church, spoke on building spiritual strength throughout life so that old age could be enjoyed whatever your circumstances; that ‘as your days, so shall your strength be’ (Deuteronomy 33:25).
In 1953, when the site was first built, there were 14 bungalows and a care home, providing places for 42 older people. Now the remodelled site has places for nearly 100 people.
The bungalows have been replaced with Pilgrim Gardens, an assisted living complex with 31 individual apartments. It has been awarded three major design and building honours, including ‘Best Built Project of the Year’.
Judges said they liked the spaciousness of the design and the good balance of privacy and community on the site. They also commended the calm ‘Japanese inspired’ courtyard garden, between the care home and the housing complex.
All the flats are occupied and Michelle Hydon, the warden, said that everyone was settling in well, with friendships being forged and fellowship deepening. The development was a major project that took more than a year, with staff working extra hard to keep residents happy during the process.
Despite the disruption, Debbie Jackson, the manager, said: ‘Even at the height of the work, visitors, including medical health professionals, would tell us how calm and peaceful the atmosphere was here. Now we’re getting compliments on the lovely building, but more important than that are the comments about the quality of the care’.
Married for 33 years, Pastor Paul Clark tried by himself to look after his wife Lillian, who has dementia, until his own health began to suffer. He tried respite care in a residential home near to where they lived in Derbyshire, but, after four days, he found her heavily sedated and dangerously dehydrated, so took her back home.
A friend recommended the Evington Pilgrim Home and now Pastor Clark makes the 90-mile round trip from Derbyshire two or three times a week. He said, ‘I can drive home with peace of mind, knowing Lillian is safe and lovingly cared for’.
In 1953, the cost of the site development was around £50,000. Today, refurbishing the interior of the care home alone cost £100,000, including specialist equipment and a new nurse call system and medical room.
Maureen Sim, director of care and housing, said the redevelopment came at a time when many care homes in the UK have had to close because of financial cuts. She said, ‘If we were not a charity, with generations of faithful supporters, we might be one of the care providers who have had to close homes. We owe so much to our supporters and donors. We are grateful to the trusts and individuals who sent donations: the cost was high but the benefits are priceless’.
PFS has also announced that Stephen Hammersley CBE has become chief executive for PFS. Mr Hammersley has for the past ten years been chief executive of UK Community Foundations, an umbrella body providing leadership and support to 48 community foundations across the country.