Eventide Homes (Stawell) Inc – located in the beautiful Grampians of Western Victoria – is an aged care facility offering a range of independent and living options. Since their foundation, Eventide has held a reputation for providing exceptional accommodation and personal care in a trusting and family oriented environment.
The origins of Eventide Homes can be traced back to the Stawell community in 1950. At that time, the need for accommodation for the elderly was brought up at a public meeting, and a committee was formed to find a solution. In 1953, over six acres of Crown land was acquired to build cottages on. The first of those cottages was built two years later with voluntary labour and local donations. A further 12 cottages were built over the next five years with the assistance of local organisations such as the Apex Club, Fire Brigade, and Stawell Eventide Ladies Auxillary.
In 1961, six more cottages were constructed, as well as an administrative block and hostel of 10 rooms. “That was the start of Eventide being a retirement village, but also providing residential care,” says Sue Blakey, CEO of Eventide Homes.
More additions, extensions and renovations occurred over the next 50 years, resulting in the four high quality levels of accommodation Eventide Homes provides today. In total, the organisation provides care to 128 residents – 62 in their general hostel, 18 in their special needs dementia wing, 32 in their independent living units, and 16 in their ‘Plantation’ retirement village across the street.
“Eventide Homes provides quality residential accommodation and care in a friendly, cheerful and family oriented environment,” says Blakey, citing the company’s mission statement.
“It’s that environment that sets Eventide apart.”
“Our main aim is to have a home like environment and provide holistic care,” Blakey says. To accomplish this, Eventide needs to employ – and attract – the right staff.
Currently, Eventide Homes employs 94 staff members, and the family environment applies to them as much as it does the residents. The company aims to be an employer of choice, and provides staff with extensive training programs and mentors them to take over management roles.
Blakey herself has benefited from this focus on career paths. She comes from a background in the water and council industries, and joined Eventide as a Systems Manager in 2000. The organisation helped her acquire an advanced diploma in Business Management, and she was made a joint Executive Officer of the organisation in 2004. In 2007, her partner left the organisation and Blakey became the sole Chief Executive.
“One of our initiatives is to home grow our succession plan, to home grow our staff and give people a career plan,” Blakey says.
It is also important that Eventide foster a computer literate work force. A year ago, Blakey says most of their personal carers “had never looked at a computer.” Today, 100 per cent of them use one every day.
Eventide also has an innovative partnership with the University of Ballarat, which provides on-site training for Cert III Personal Care students. Those students spend one day in the training centre, and another on the floor, working under Eventide’s staff and getting to know their residents. This is the organisation’s second year hosting that training, and Blakey says it has proven extremely fruitful.
“We grab the cream of the crop out of those trainees,” she says. “At the end of 12 months we’ve been able to employ quite a few of them.”
“Our retention is quite high,” she adds. “Once we get people working here, they tend to stick around. We’re getting a lot of applications each week, even though we haven’t advertised for any. That’s by word of mouth.”
One of the main advantages of Eventide Homes is the way they provide a continuity of care. Residents can start by living in their retirement village or independent living units and progress into their hostel while maintaining the same carers and living in the same community. Moving forward, Blakey says the goal is to preserve that advantage.
“One of our most important initiatives is to keep building beds so we can provide enough to keep the residents in their own community,” she explains.
At the moment, they are building a new 20 bed wing – and hope to staff it with their Cert III trainees. That development is due for opening in November. As soon as that’s finished, they are looking into building six cluster units for aged people.
Additionally, they are also preparing to launch “stage two” of their Plantation Village development. Stage one features 16 villas, all two or two two-and-a-half-bedroom units complete with a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and laundry, reverse-cycle air conditioning, central gas heating, and a central vacuum system – as well as a lock-up garage with remote control entry. Stage two will see the construction of a further 16 to 20 units.
Last year, Eventide Homes opened the “Blake Lounge” – a lounge extension to Currie House, one of their four hostel wings. The funds for that project were raised primarily due to the foresight and effort of resident Harold Blake, who, in November 2008 at the age of 84, cycled 520 kilometres from Swan hill to Port Fairy to raise awareness of the project.
Harold completed the ride in memory of his late wife June, and the extension was named after them both. “He’s an inspiration to everyone here at Eventide and brightens our day,” Blakey says.
As for as the long term vision for Eventide goes, Blakey adds that after the next round of development, the organisation will be hitting the pause button. Above all else, they want to retain their home-like atmosphere, and don’t want to grow to the point where they lose that.