The Expositor
Brantford, Ontario



OUR 146th YEAR


RiverView Terrace

wins Heritage award

Kit McDermott
Kit McDermott is a local freelance writer whose columns appear every Monday in The Expositor. Readers wishing to get in touch with Kit may leave a message at 756-2020, Ext 224, or write to her in care of The Expositor, 53 Dalhousie St., Brantford, Ontario, N3T 5S8.

photos by Christopher Smith, Expositor Staff

It’s one thing to have a dream, make plans and set a course for success. Certainly the dream was in place and now 18 months of hard work later a handsome Victorian mansion has been re-established as a Brantford architectural marvel, worthy of special attention.

In fact, owners, builders, caregivers and retirement residents at RiverView Terrace Retirement Home, will receive more than fleeting praise for the dream that was realized. On March 4, the Brantford Heritage Award will be presented by Mayor Chris Friel, at a wine and cheese reception, to be held at the residence.

Seniors Playing Cards in Heritage Room at RiverView Terrace.

It was Terri Koller, Life Enrichment Manager at RiverView Terrace, who told me about the special award, assuring me that I would hardly recognize the former Brant Avenue Manor, with its new look. She said that improvements have been made in all areas including the activities and outreach programs for the benefit and enjoyment of the seniors and their families.

Having accepted the invitation to inspect the premises, I found myself in the circular driveway at 104 Brant Ave., noticing that the entrance had been moved with a doorway set in the centre of the lovely house. It took only a few steps to find myself in the reception area, leading to the spacious Heritage Room.

"Actually, we call this entire area the Heritage Room, because it can be used as one large space for special events," Terri explained, with a sweeping gesture which included the tables set up for a group of card players.

"We can actually accommodate 100 people when we have entertainers come; there’s a dance floor and we have performances from so many local and district artists, always a welcome diversion," she said. "our outreach program includes outings, such as a recent trip to join the audience at the Dini Petty show in Toronto,"

Interacting with others in the community has Terri enthusiastic about progressive Euchre Club, held on the first Thursday of each month in the Heritage Room.

"Admission is just $2 and we serve quite an elaborate buffet. As well, there are cash prizes and door prizes."

New members are invited to join the event that starts at 1:30 p.m.

T one end of the Heritage Room, a cozy cluster of small tables and chairs is known as the Heritage Café. Here I was introduced to the reigning King and Queen, selected from the residents, crowned on Valentines Day. A charming couple, Byron and Lillian Thornton will preside over all the official functions including the upcoming Henry VIII Dinner.

"There will even be costumes to make it all rather authentic," I was told and Terri added, "there will be some other surprises too!"

Gladys Cook works on a papier mache vase in the new crafts room at RiverView Terrace

The Café has a storage area for games and the collection of bone china cups and saucers donated by residents and their families.

Passing through the door leading into the large activities room, I was struck by the bright, cheerful surroundings with tables and chairs at the moment arranged for craft work. At one end of the room there’s a 24-hour refreshment centre for coffee, tea and cold drinks. Terri had already indicated the other source of temptation, namely a year round ice cream machine, located in the Café, especially popular on hot summer days.

One talented resident was busy making lovely fans, incredibly from small plastic forks, ingeniously gathered together, covered with lace ribbons and adorned with posies.

Nellie Marinuk said it wasn’t too difficult once you get the hang of it and she likes the precise work.

At another tables, Edith Taylor was preparing for Easter with an assortment of table novelties, many of which will provide small favours on the breakfast trays of other residents. I marveled at some of the recycling of pill cups and other common plastic items, all turned into useful decorative creations by the person Terri described as "our queen of crafts".

As an example of wonderful papier maché craft art was the large lamp being completed by Gladys Cook.

"She’s my mother-in-law," Greg Neid told me when I was introduced to him as one of the owners of the retirement complex.

"Hi Mom!"

It was time for the grand tour and we joined Tamara Belontz, general manager at RiverView. It was explained that the ownership, besides Greg and his wife Lesleigh, consists of Peter and Jim Hallman and their sister, Susan Rempel, of Kitchener.

In the construction business since 1945, the Hallman family are well –known for their interest in building and restoring retirement homes. Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge are other designated areas and there is special appreciation in the Brantford heritage residence.

Gold River CareHomes provides professional management to RiverView and Greg and his company have provided quality care to seniors in Ontario for more than a decade. He said that he was a receiver and took over failed retirement homes and from that, learned a lesson on how things should be done properly, to the benefit of the residents.

"We decide that we wanted to do it for real, rather than fixing others’ mistakes. We partnered with the Hallman family."

Marketing and sales manager Valerie Gajda joined us on our tour. Her extensive background as a nurse and manager and Director of Care, have been invaluable in promoting the most up-to-date retirement needs.

We stopped briefly in the elegant Empire living room, where several residents were watching a giant screen TV while others were just chatting or relaxing in comfortable chairs. I admired a 19th century square grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture.

The bay window, inlaid hardwood floors still showing around the border of the soft carpeting and warm colours have all been preserved in the house, originally designed by architect John Turner for miller and grain dealer, David Plewes, in 1871.

High tech security has been especially designed for, and incorporated into the refurbished rooms and suites. Nurses carry cellular phones, for instant contact with each resident. The nurse can get instant emergency assistance to the room number identified on her phone, including ambulance service.

The same system controls and monitors all doors and locks.

"We are so proud of this setup," Val remarked and Greg pointed out the special emergency phones installed in the bathrooms. The whole of her nursing station is contained in the phone in the nurse’s hand.

A rear addition to the stately home has been terraced down to the Grand River and many windows offer a splendid view. There is a new three-season side patio room, which will be screened and glassed-in, when completed.

"We’re not finished yet, new ideas are being considered all the time," Greg allowed.

However, one unique idea has been incorporated, one floor up by elevator. It is the private chapel, for meditation and listening to sermons by visiting clergy. An 1885 pump organ, another object of pride, has been converted to be played electrically when pumping seems a little strenuous.

Over tea and cakes in an intimate dining room, I learned that the room is ideal for family gatherings, but is also available free-of-charge for non-profit groups in the community for meetings on a regular basis.

Residents are served meals in the large dining room, with a monthly gourmet dinner, which may included guests and features musical entertainment.

‘It’s been a great success, everyone dressing up – and we feel it really offers people a sense of dining out in comfort and style," Tamara observed.

Interaction with the community was a recurring theme during my tour of RiverView Terrace.

Lisa Powell, a student at Brantford Collegiate Institute, told me that she comes in to volunteer her services every afternoon, and hopes to pursue studies in geriatrics or related fields following graduation.

"I really think she’s after my job," Terri joked. "She’s wonderful and we all love her!"

Children have not been left out of the picture as welcome guests. An irresistible play area has been arranged in the alcove off the reception area. "My wife, Lesleigh, is a Grade 1 teacher and she insisted on helping with the design of the play room,’ Greg said. He demonstrated why it is so popular with youngsters, sitting down on the floor "where everything is within their reach… pillows, toys, video."

Liaison with the hospitals has become an important feature at RiverView, I was told by Valerie.  "With shorter time spent in the hospital these days, especially after surgery, we have a convalescent program, with full nursing care," she explained. "There is respite care, which includes provision for short or long term guests, when relatives have travel plans and are concerned about an older person remaining on their own.’

Friends and family are always welcome and there has been an increasing interest now that this beautiful home has undergone such extensive restoration.