WINNIPEG — Fred Narvey, left, had lived at the north Winnipeg Kanee Centre of the Sharon Home Retirement Homes since 2005.
“I didn’t think there could be a better place to live than the Kanee Centre,” said the still spry 95-year-old, speaking at the dedication of the newly expanded Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre, the Sharon Home’s south Winnipeg branch, late last month. “I was wrong. I have never seen such a beautiful place.”
Others agreed with his impression. Kerri Irving-Ross, Manitoba’s minister for healthy living, described the facility as “amazing.” Jack Litvack, chair of the organization’s expansion implementation committee, said the Simkin Centre is one of the finest personal care homes in Canada.
Jonathan Kroft, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, said “the centre is a wonderful benefit to the community.”
Winnipeg has had a Jewish “old folks home” in the north end since 1912. The Sharon Home had been at the same north end address since 1940. The seniors residence there, which was modernized several times over the years, had 157 beds.
In keeping with the growing Jewish community in south Winnipeg in recent years, and the corresponding decrease in the Jewish population in the north end, the community first built a south Winnipeg branch of the Sharon Home – the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre – in 2002. That facility cost $12 million to build, including $3 million raised within the community, and had 72 beds. Meal were prepared in the north end residence and delivered to the new centre.
The new work on the south end Sharon Home – Phase II of a three-phase process – cost $31 million, $6 million of which was raised in the Jewish community. It increased the number of beds to 200. With the completion of this second phase, all the residents of the north Winnipeg facility were transferred to the south Winnipeg building.
The Kanee Centre is to be used as a government-administered home for people with mental health and/or addiction problems.
At the Simkin Centre dedication ceremony, Sandra Delorme, the Sharon Home’s president and CEO for the past six years, pointed out some of the highlights of the expanded facility, including two completely separate kitchens (one for meat and one for dairy), a new synagogue (the synagogue, which was dedicated following the speeches, formerly shared space with the multipurpose room) and areas dedicated to the memories of the Kanee and Simkin Families.
She also spoke about the centre’s walking track – the first such walking track in a nursing home in North America – where residents recovering from hip surgery or a stroke can use a sling to relieve the weight on the damaged area while they learn to walk again.
In the latest in resident safety, she said, every resident and every staff person has a computerized badge so that everyone can be tracked at any given time.
Delorme described the welcoming reception residents coming from the north Winnipeg home received on arrival at their new home. “Our entire staff gathered at the front entrance to welcome each group [of about 20] as they arrived,” she said.
Speaking for her family, Jacqueline Simkin (one of the late Saul and Claribel’s daughters) recalled her parents’ long connection with the Sharon Home.
“My baba [on the Simkin side] and my Uncle Joe and Auntie Clara [Saul Simkin’s sister] were cared for at the Sharon Home in their latter years,” she said. “My father used to visit every Shabbat, and my mother would be there every afternoon.”
She described how her father and his brothers built BACM into one of western Canada’s largest construction companies.
“My mother was involved with the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry Society (organizations whose goal is to rehabilitate ex-convicts). My father made it a practice to hire ex-convicts.”
She noted that her mother kept up a correspondence with Albert Schweitzer and helped establish a group home for troubled teenagers.
In the Jewish community, Saul Simkin was a chair of a United Jewish Appeal campaign and a leading member of Rosh Pina Synagogue.
“My parents never forgot their modest origins,” Simkin said.
Among the other speakers at the dedication were Leonard Asper, who chaired the Bring Us All Together fundraising campaign, and Real Cloutier, who brought greetings from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Bob Kopstein, chair of the Sharon Home’s board of directors, noted that the completion of the physical foundation – the steel and cement – ensures the building’s physical stability through the years.
The dedication ceremony concluded with words by the Sharon Home’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Neal Rose, and the chanting of K’El Maleh Rachamim by Cantor Anibal Maas of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. The Torahs were carried in and placed in the Ark of the new synagogue by rabbis Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek and Larry Lander, spiritual leader of Congregation Etz Chayim, Cantor Gerry Daien of Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue and the Sharon Home’s Cantor Stephen Hyman.