By March 2023, the residents of Katherine House were ready to break out of their Covid cocoon and see what the world had on offer! Katherine House is a 15-person private personal care home in a great old St. John’s manor house.
In partnership with Guide to the Good, and with support from the province and the community, the residents - mostly seniors, Katherine House staff, and friends from the Guide to the Good community, got together and put their hands and hearts and minds to new tasks.
“Is there bingo Saturday?” Starting back in Covid days, and in abidance with all the regulations, Guide to the Good got volunteer clearance to call the bingo at Katherine House. It was a welcome reprieve for residents in the lockdown days.
Masked, gloved and gowned, we were dressed to perform surgery rather than call bingo but safety came first.
We had it all: game agenda, prizes, flashing hat, snacks.
And we had the bingo playlist, starting with Freddy Fender - Why Should I Keep Loving You, and moving on through all the good ones, right down to Rex Hemeon’s Bingo and Another World .
We loved it. The residents loved it. We wanted to do more.
So when, in the fall of ‘22 we saw a grant for funds from the province that would support fun activities with Katherine House residents and others, we went for it.
We proposed ‘Getting to Know You’, an intergenerational project that would bring residents/staff of Katherine House together with members of the Guide to the Good community to do fun and interesting things.
In February 2023 the adventures began. Two eight-year-old girls made invites for every one at Katherine House, and the invite came with a Valentine pizza party on February 14. The invite was for a bus tour and lunch later the month.
That Valentine's Day was very snowy and stormy, and not much was on the road, but the new owners of the pizza shop made sure that supper was delivered safely and on time. Everyone who could accept, did! Getting to Know You was on the go!
Getting out in the community, seeing different sights and having different experiences is good for health and well-being. And food brings people together - a great way to start ‘getting to know you’.
The City Wide bus showed up right on time, and the whole crew was ready to get aboard. For some, it was the first time ‘out out’ since the pandemic shutdown of 2020. They were ready!
It was one of those brutal and cruelly-cold days in the deepest freeze of winter. Some of the residents used canes or walkers for mobility, and every step was another second in the bitter cold.
No one complained.
The City of St. John's was a blanket of white and ice. There was ice in the harbour and some say there were ballycaters on the bits of shore (we didn’t see them!).
When we got to Petty Harbour, the bus took us through the twisty, narrow streets of white and water, with bits of bright stores and stages popping up. For some, it brought back memories of winters growing up in their home community.
The lunch at Keith’s Diner was a hit! We had figured out what everyone wanted beforehand, so when we arrived they set us up in primo space along the wall, and we were able to place the order in bulk. Lunch at Katherine House is usually served at 11, so everyone was hungry - and happy that food came quickly - hot and delicious!
We made it back to Katherine House mid-afternoon, with everyone well-fed, tired, and looking forward to the next adventure.
Katherine House is located in the centre of the City. It’s bustling! Residents enjoy walking to the store, to the coffee shop, and around the neighbourhood. The house is surrounded by big old trees with a walking path in between.
Some of them are maple, so the idea of tapping the trees held a lot of promise! Usually the sap starts flowing early March but 2023 had its own ideas. Around mid-March we got it set up but little yield showed. Then, more winter storms blew the buckets off the trees so we took down the spiles. By this time, we thought it was too late. But actually it was too early.
The next adventure was a new twist on a tried and true skill for many of the Katherine House residents. Some of the residents talked about their experience in painting houses, fences, and boats, but the next ‘Getting to Know You’ adventure was in ceramics.
Creative, artistic efforts are known to be good for the mind and soul, so in March the crew headed out to Clay Cafe on Topsail Road for a fun session of painting bowls. Katherine House residents and staff were joined by children and young people from the Guide to the Good community, and there was a lot of interesting conversation on the go.
For some it was the first time working in ceramics. Clay Cafe was expecting us, so the seating was all set up. Each resident has already chosen their colour, so we got down to business right away. Each colour needed three coats, inside and out to be food safe. The cool thing is that even though the colours look pastel and dull when painted, they turn out shiny shiny bright after the kiln.
Everyone was delighted with the result! Especially the one who wound up with two due to a blister in the kiln!
The residents got their bowls back at the Easter Bingo event.
The flop of the maple tree tapping didn’t discourage all from the next adventure in gardening - the Katherine House Bucket Garden.
Getting hands in soil and watching things grow is known to be a positive experience that contributes to well-being.
Plans were made in early spring - buckets, seeds, soil and more. Residents choose their favourite seeds to plant from a selection of those known to grow well in buckets.
We visited E.W. Gaze The Seed Company on Harbourside Drive to get the seeds - carrots, peas, turnip, beet, zucchini, radish, swiss chard, cucumber, wildflowers and sunflowers.
The buckets and other planting tools - sticks and watering cans, came from Home Hardware on Torbay Road. The personal touch was an important part of the ‘Getting to Know You’ project, so the buckets were painted with each person's name and their choice of seed.
Holland Nurseries on Torbay Road provided the soil, premixed to meet the nutrient needs of bucket gardens.
As soon as the weather permitted, we had the plant!
It was a lovely sunny day (we put up the awning we’d purchased with a contribution from Wellness Coalition Avalon East for the Remembrance Day Tree Plant), and the team had a blast working with residents to get the buckets planted! It was awesome, fun and funny.
Since then the residents have been taking good care of their crops, and everything is growing great so far.
First when the rows of buckets were planted passers-by wondered what was on the go with the buckets lined up…. now they know!
We’re looking forward to more adventures with residents of Katherine House.
‘Getting To Know You’ is a project of thegreenrock ~ Live Sustainably NL / Guide to the Good and Katherine House with funding support from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Senior Social Inclusion grant, 2022-2023, Junior Forest Warden Giant Squid, in-kind support from Wellness Coalition Avalon East, and support from community-minded volunteers, and others.
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