Dorine Russell sits in a comfortable armchair in her new room at Prairie Meadow Place, a cup of coffee by her side. “This is a wonderful place,” she says. “I love it here.” Russell moved to Rosthern, Sask., from Ontario a year ago to be near her daughter, who lives in Waldheim.
She’s one of 17 residents who moved into the new assisted-living facility from the old Home for the Aged in December 2015. When every room is occupied, the residence will be home to 20 seniors.
Prairie Meadow Place is a self-sustaining facility, explains board chair Art Klaassen, but it receives support from five local churches. Rosthern, Eigenheim, Tiefengrund and Horse Lake Mennonite, all part of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, and Hague Mennonite, a former MC Saskatchewan congregation, provide about 10 percent of the facility’s funding, with the remaining 90 percent coming from residents’ fees.
The five churches were part of what was once called the Rosenort Group of Churches. In 1944, they realized a need for a seniors residence. I. P. Friesen donated his two-storey family home and the land on which it sat to be used for that purpose. In 1957, the Rosenort Home for the Aged changed its name to the Rosthern Mennonite Home for the Aged. The facility was expanded in 1959, ’65 and ’67. At one time, it housed 40 residents, but when healthcare reforms were introduced in the 1980s, the facility had to be renovated again, making larger suites for fewer residents.
Around 2008, plans were developed for a new facility, but the board lacked funds to make them a reality. In 2013, Aaron and Verna Friesen approached Klaassen and offered to fund the project with a $2 million donation. The Friesens, who are members of Eigenheim Mennonite, were planning to sell their farm and wanted to give something back to the community. This was a project they believed in. Additional funding came in the form of a $100,000 bequest from the Jake Loewen estate, and a mortgage from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada.
Construction began in the fall of 2013. Phase 1 was to consist of three floors on a full basement. The main floor would house the assisted living facility, while the upper two floors would contain 12 independent-living condominium units, which would be available for purchase.
Work is already underway on Phase 2 of the project, a wing off the south end of the building that will add another eight single- and four double-residence rooms to the existing structure, bringing the facility’s capacity to 36 residents.
The Friesens are also financing this second phase of construction, but with a loan to be repaid after one year. The board hopes to secure an additional loan from a financial institution to cover the costs. “In many ways we’re going on a wing and a prayer,” says Klaassen.
Residence director Pam Wieler is confident the rooms will eventually be filled and the facility will be able to sustain itself. “There is a great need for a place like this,” she says.