Waking up to a breathtaking view from a high-rise penthouse situated in the heart of the organization they started still feels like a dream for Al Kalke and his wife, Elsie. Al recollects how he, together with the late Gordon Rattai and members from local churches, brainstormed and planned endlessly — and it all began with meeting for coffee.
"We wanted to do something for our aging parents," Al says. "We were worried about their futures."
On April 24, 1970, they registered as the German Pentecostal Benevolent Foundation of Alberta and presented the need for a nursing home to the Alberta Hospital Services Commission.
Land became available and was purchased by the Foundation together with Southside Pentecostal Assembly. A plan was designed to build a church, seniors’ apartments (which would become Millwoods Manor), and a nursing home (now Millwoods Care Centre). The estimated cost for the total project would be $2.8 million.
|Above: Al Kalke (second from right) stands at the former Millwoods Pentecostal Assembly property, where his home, Shepherd’s Gardens condo, now stands.|
The Foundation, with the help of a gentleman named Hip Holmes, requested a loan from the bank. The request was approved on the condition that the Foundation would provide personal guarantees.
Al managed to recruit 28 individuals willing to give a personal guarantee of $100,000 (some at $50,000) to back the project. This meant sacrificing their homes, properties, and other investments to ensure seniors would have a place. Many of these individuals had young families to care for, were newly married, and had other life events of their own, but they put their faith in God’s hands, and signed off on the personal guarantees.
Above: The late Gordon Rattai (far left) and other key stakeholders during the groundbreaking ceremony for Millwoods Manor, Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s first building.
A contract was signed to begin the construction of Millwoods Manor, and the German Pentecostal Benevolent Foundation of Alberta was renamed as Shepherd’s Care Foundation. A letter came back from the bank confirming the loan had been paid in full by Provincial Government grants, and the personal guarantees were returned.
The construction of supportive living apartments began, a long-term care facility was introduced, Kensington Village was established, and more campuses soon followed, covering accommodations and services for a full spectrum of care. Al saw their age-in-place concept transform into a reality before his eyes as he served as a volunteer, Board Member, and even jumping in as the interim President after the passing of Herb Haut. Elsie was also an asset as a dedicated member of the Shepherd’s Caring Friends Auxiliary, a group who devoted much of their time to raising funds for the Foundation.
|Above: Al Kalke (centre) at the Kensington Village groundbreaking celebration in 1996|
|Above: Al and Elsie volunteering with Shepherd’s Caring Friends at a Southside Manor Garage Sale|
|Above: Elsie Kalke shakes hands with Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s first President, the late Herb Haut|
The Kalkes say the future of Shepherd’s Care Foundation looks bright, with the new generation slowly filling in for retiring Board members.
Today, Al and Elsie are enjoying retirement right where it all began. They currently reside in Shepherd’s Gardens (independent living condominiums) at the Millwoods campus.
"It’s the retirement of my dreams, " says Elsie, with a smile. "This is my family."
|Above: Connie Meier, friend, introduces her baby to Al and Elsie during a dinner in the Millwoods campus auditorium.|
Elsie gets a warm feeling when she witnesses the interconnection and interaction among residents, families and staff, and knows her children feel the same way knowing she and Al are there."It lightens the load for our children, because they feel very comfortable that we are here," she says with a laugh. "They’re relieved because we landed a place of our choice."
She advises future residents and caregivers to plan for their future and not to wait too long for seniors care. "Invest in what you feel you would want for yourself. For Al and I, this is the best investment we’ve ever made."
|Above: Al and Elsie Kalke at Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s Cake Auction in 2019.|