Arrowsmith Lodge meant elders could stay close to family, friends

Board chair Jennifer Christenson, Cokely Manor resident Winnie Roach, and violinist Marjorie Cullerne celebrating Arrowsmith’s 40th birthday.

Forty years ago, when Arrowsmith Lodge opened in Parksville, it was the only care home for seniors in Oceanside.

Saturday (Aug. 9th), its 40th birthday was celebrated with music, cake and tours.

Prior to its opening in the fall of 1971, people had to drive to Victoria to visit their elderly parents.

This inspired seniors counsellor Everett Blish to pursue a care home for Parksville so seniors could stay close to family and friends.

“He determined, with the help of others, that a personal care home for seniors was the greatest need in this community,” Jennifer Christenson, chair of the Arrowsmith Rest Home Society, told guests. “One of our board members recalls having to drive all the way to Victoria to visit his grandfather because there was nothing here for people.”

Blish and others formed a Society in 1969. They needed to raise $30,000 — 10% of the total estimated cost — to qualify for a CMHC loan.

“They achieved that through card parties, bingos, teas, raffles and good old personal canvassing, knocking on doors,” said Christenson.

Arrowsmith Lodge, named for the nearby mountain, opened with fewer than 30 beds. Now, said administrator David McDowell, Arrowsmith Lodge and Cokely Manor together provide 105 beds.

From left: volunteer board member George Lupton, chairperson Jennifer Christenson, director Fred Pearson, administrator David McDowell, and directors Mats Bergman, Caroline Hammell and Larry Dingsdale.

In October 2005 a new complex care building was opened, Arrowsmith Lodge, and in September 2006 the old building was turned into 30 assisted living units named Cokely Manor, after another mountain.

In its first decade, Arrowsmith Lodge was funded entirely by the community. It didn’t start to receive government funding until 1978, said McDowell. “And nobody was ever turned away for lack of funds.”

Patricia Vinden wasn’t there at the start, but she was a nurse at Arrowsmith for 8-1/2 years.

“What a friendly place it was,” she said. Her first interview for a position didn’t get her a job, but six months later she was successful.
“The first thing I noticed was that people didn’t wear name tags,” she said, “so I mentally had to remember who they were; otherwise you could get in trouble with your meds.”

Vinden loved working with the elderly.

“That’s what I missed most when I retired. I didn’t miss shift work and I didn’t miss getting up early, but I missed the people.”

She followed her nursing career with 10 years on the ladies’ auxiliary and another six on the board.

Vinden was given the honour of cutting the 40th anniversary cake, along with Parksville Mayor Chris Burger.

After an afternoon of tea, cake, stories and tours, McDowell was pleased. “A very good turnout.”

Christenson said the public continues to help Arrowsmith Lodge and Cokely Manor and is encouraged to donate to the bus fund.

Story & photos by Brad Bird of the Oceanside Star.

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