Nancy Coull’s dog is a popular visitor

Nancy Coull brings her adorable 4-year-old dog Molly into the Stacey Centre every Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. to greet the residents. Nancy is with Therapeutic Paws of Canada and Molly is a therapy dog.

Nancy started bringing Molly into the facility last year and she makes the rounds to visit the residents each week. Molly is popular with everyone but she is particularly loved by Sophie Kypreos and Rita Collins, so Nancy makes sure she goes looking for them if doesn’t find them in their rooms.

“She really makes my day,” said Sophie of the shaggy black and white pooch. “I had to give up my dog when I came here.” She pulls out an iPad to show photos of the beautiful Collie she had to leave behind. It’s easy to see why she can’t wait for Molly’s visits.

Another resident tells Nancy which colour bows she should put on the dog each week. This week they were yellow. Molly is a well-trained Schapendoes (Dutch Sheepdog) who had to pass a test to qualify as a therapy dog. She is now being tested to work with children in libraries in the Paws to Read program.

Andy Barros is the executive director of the Tony Stacey Centre.

In a perfect world, Andy Barros would have $40 million to tear down the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans Care and replace the 42-year-old building with a larger long-term-care home that has modern facilities and a bigger therapy pool.

As executive director, Andy has submitted an application to the Ontario government for capital funding but it’s unclear when the money will be available. “We want to be one of the homes to be considered for that in future,” he said.

Until then, the centre does what it can to fix areas in need of repair. A recent fundraising campaign raised nearly $250,000 to install a new roof, but the centre needs an additional $35,000 for new flooring in the common areas, $32,000 to retile its therapy pool and funding for a new pool motor, which recently broke down.

The facility does its best to fundraise, but Andy believes that in order to collect enough money to rebuild, it needs to establish a foundation to attract corporate donations.

Maintenance aside, the centre is fortunate to sit on a lovely 2.5-acre piece of property at 59 Lawson Road, adjacent to Royal Canadian Legion Branch 258. The centre houses 100 residents: 96 permanent residents and four short-term stay guests.

While the home was originally built as the brainchild of World War II veteran and Legionnaire Tony Stacey to provide compassionate care for aging war vets, it currently has only 15 vets and 15 of their dependants, including spouses or children. The balance of residents reflects a cross-section of Scarborough’s population.

While Second World War vets are on the decline, Andy says a new wave of younger servicemen and women is in need of care. He hopes to have day programs for them in the future for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, but Andy says, “Eventually they will age, and we want to reach out to them.

Pool therapy program open to the public

Warm-water pool therapy helps those suffering from arthritis stay active.

Sue Grout knows first-hand how important warm-water pool therapy is for arthritis sufferers. As co-ordinator of the Arthritis Program at Tony Stacey Centre, Sue said the buoyant warm water enables people to keep moving, allowing them to stay in their homes longer. “It can also help people avoid the need for surgery and that saves the health-care system money,” she added. Since 2003, volunteers with a program called WaterART Fitness International have offered the therapy at the centre for a reasonable cost to local citizens suffering from the crippling disease. This is separate from the facility’s in-house pool program.

A team of 18 qualified instructors oversees 24 classes a week, including some evening classes for participants who still work. That adds up to 150 local residents, most of them in their 70s, who benefit from the program weekly. Sue said the seniors, some of whom have had joint replacement surgery, find out about the program through word of mouth. Classes are full and there is a waiting list to get in.

Prior to 2003, the program operated out of Centenary Hospital but it was shut down when the SARS epidemic hit. Sue said it took awhile to find another warm-water pool and by the time they were up and running again some participants returned stiff from inactivity and were using walkers or wheelchairs. “They also missed the social aspect to the program,” she added. For information about the classes, which cost $7 each, contact the registrar at 416-283-0761. Enquiries will be answered within 24 hours.

Babs Armstrong, 95, was a war bride

Babs Armstrong shows photos of herself and her husband in uniform during the war.

As a native of Hertfordshire, England, 95-year-old Babs Armstrong, has many memories of the war, including serving with Queen Elizabeth, who was a princess at the time.

Babs joined the British Army when she was 18 and served for almost five years waiting tables in the mess hall of a training camp for British officers. “That’s how I met Princess Elizabeth — she was learning how to drive the lorries,” Babs said. She met the Queen again in 1973 when the monarch was in town to open the Scarborough Town Centre.

Love blossomed for Babs during the war when she met a dashing young Canadian officer stationed at a nearby military base. “He showed up at our camp and was supposed to go out with someone else, but when she didn’t show, up I went instead,” Babs said.

She was a war bride who moved to Canada with her husband immediately after the war, settling in southwest Scarborough and raising a family. The resiliency Babs developed during the war years served her well when her husband died of a heart attack at age 40, leaving her to fend alone with three children.

To stay busy after her husband’s death, Babs joined the Royal Canadian Legion near Yonge and Eglinton, becoming involved in activities there.

Her daughter visits twice a week but her two sons predeceased her. Babs has two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.

She first came to the Tony Stacey Centre last October with the intention of staying a week, but when a permanent room became available while she was there, she and her daughter decided to accept the placement.

“I like living here because I don’t have to do dishes,” Baba said with a twinkle in her eye. She said the food is good and plentiful and she enjoys trips to the nearby Legion for lunch and Swiss Chalet for dinner.


Hairdresser and tuck shop volunteer enjoy chatting with residents

Heather Wiseman  (right) is the Stacey Centre’s hairdresser. She is a friendly, outgoing woman who has been cutting, shampooing and styling the residents’ hair two or three days a week for more than 20 years. “It’s my second home,” she said. When the hair salon she worked at was sold, she decided she didn’t want to go back to a salon. A mutual friend mentioned that the Tony Stacey needed a hairdresser and she’s been there ever since. When she’s not busy doing hair, Heather spends time chatting with the residents. Carol Trimm-Combes (left) is a volunteer at the Centre’s small tuck shop. She comes in for a few hours several days a week to sell items to the residents as well as unpack the boxes of donations. The shop is filled with pretty things like photo frames, purses and silk flowers. They also sell chocolate bars. The residents don’t have to pay much and any money collected goes back to the Centre. Jewellery is especially popular with the residents, Carol said. There aren’t many volunteers to work at the shop so it isn’t open every day. The centre would like to have more volunteers for the tuck shop and to interact with residents. They would also appreciate donations of new or gently used items to sell.

CCRA gives donation for a new bed