For healthcare workers at the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, providing the best care possible to residents is always front of mind.
To ensure that veterans receive the high-quality care they deserve, the team at Camp Hill works hard to maintain services while also investing in innovative new equipment and enhancements to improve residents’ quality of life. Oftentimes, these investments are possible only through the generosity of community members and organizations.
Among these donors, the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) and its local branches have been crucial. Over the past 30 years, 81 branches of the RCL have contributed more than $370,000 to veterans’ care and services at the QEII.
Joyce Pitcher is President of RCL Branch 95 in Bedford, which has been a contributor to Camp Hill and the QEII. Joyce, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from 1959 to 1964, explains that Legion branches are responsible for working on the ground, providing direct assistance to local veterans and liaising with community resources like Camp Hill.
“We look after our own little neighbourhood,” she says. “Our primary goal is the support and care of veterans and their families because the families are the main support for the veterans themselves.”
This support includes funding not only equipment such as patient lifts and a new bladder scanner but also recreational programming for veterans and their families, comfort items, and other integral parts of Camp Hill, like the Veterans Memorial Garden.
Since it was constructed 20 years ago, the garden has become a special part of Camp Hill, serving as a gathering place for its 175 residents and their family members.
For residents, the garden is an important contributor to mental, physical, and social well-being. It is a space for remembrance and reflection, a venue for things like concerts and gardening activities and a monument to the contributions of service members, with a poppy fountain and a walk of honour for veterans who have passed away.
“It is a safe, outdoor sanctuary for veterans and residents to enjoy,” says Heather White, director of Camp Hill Veterans Services. “It’s a beautiful spot to be outside and enjoy all the benefits that nature brings to people. That’s been so helpful during the pandemic when outdoor activities have been safer for us to hold.”
The garden is just one of the many aspects of Camp Hill that are integral to the care and well-being of residents. The multidisciplinary team works closely with each veteran and their family — along with volunteers and community organizations — to best support the needs of the veterans.
“It’s focused as a whole team in understanding what the veterans’ interests and goals are, and how we can best support them and their care needs,” says Heather. “We are all striving to work together to make their experience living here at Camp Hill the best that it can be, and that truly requires a team effort on multiple fronts.”
Donald Bishop and Allen Hopkins, two residents of Camp Hill, are among the veterans that the RCL has impacted through its support. Donald, who recently turned 98-years-old, joined the RCAF when he was 18, at the beginning of the Second World War. Allen, 91, joined the army at 19, during the Korean War, and served until the age of 42.
“I think it forms you when you’re at a young age,” Donald says of his time in the service. “You learn discipline — you learn that pretty quick because if you don’t, you're in trouble. It has a bearing on your life, makes you a better person and to think of others.”
For Donald, a Legion member since 1990, and Allen, a Legion member since 1985, the importance of taking care of neighbours — whether through time, donations, or another form of generosity — was an important lesson from their days in the service.
“I realized what a diversification there is in the world,” says Allen. “Each of those points should be thought of in the sense of our neighbour.”
Robert Pitcher, the Poppy Campaign Chairperson for RCL Branch 95, says that community support is necessary for supporting Camp Hill and other veterans’ services.
The annual Poppy campaign remains one of the biggest fundraisers for the Legion and takes place in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. Last year, the campaign raised $50,000, funding projects at Camp Hill and other community hospitals, medical centres, PTSD groups and more.
“Without people, without the community supporting us, we won’t exist,” says Robert, who served in the RCAF for 31 years. “It’s not just money — it’s talent, it’s time, it's physical labour, it’s whatever you can provide. If you can help us and you want to help us, we’re here and we’ll work with you.”