It’s been 25 years since Moose Cottage – a quiet, warm and welcoming space for patients, families and friends to gather at the Red Deer Regional Hospital – first opened its doors.
An anniversary open house to celebrate that milestone runs Dec. 13th from 1 to 4 p.m.
As mentioned, the Moose Cottage serves as a kind of refuge for those visiting loved ones to grab a coffee, talk with a compassionate volunteer or to simply have a quiet break.
Financially supported by the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Ladies of the Moose and staffed by a rotation of 24 volunteers, the Cottage has offered more than 231,000 patients, families and guests a welcoming area to visit since 1993.
Brad Screpnek of the Moose said whatever major needs arise – new tables or flooring for example – staff simply hand the service club a quote and the Moose take care of it.
“It’s great that patients can come in here and feel relaxed in a relaxing atmosphere. I hear nothing but good reports,” he said, adding the Moose have been serving Red Deer for more than 60 years.
Looking back, Moose Cottage became a project of the Red Deer Regional Hospital in late 1992.
The Loyal Order of the Moose and the Ladies of the Moose wanted a project on the hospital site, said Brenda Farwell, coordinator of volunteer services for the Red Deer Regional Hospital. “Truly, when they asked for a legacy project they got a legacy project because we are now at 25 years. That’s why we are celebrating. And through the years, the Moose have been great partners.”
The Cottage is also volunteer-run.
“Seven days a week, every afternoon, we have two volunteers on shift helping our patients and families enjoy a cup of coffee, a sweet treat and to also enjoy a break from their patient-care room,” she explained.
The room has also been the setting for memorial services, life celebrations, wedding receptions and birthday parties. “It’s a room that is inviting enough that we can be diverse to offer all of those things to our patients.”
Ultimately, the Cottage’s cozy atmosphere provides, as mentioned, a break from a patient’s hospital room.
“I know for many of our patients and families, especially those who have been with us for a long time, it’s truly a go-to place every afternoon. Plus when they get two or three visitors, the (hospital) rooms can get crowded so they can invite their guests here.”
The Moose Cottage is also used for the Bereavement Support Group, said Falwell.
“We are very, very proud of what goes on in this room and are very pleased that the Moose continue to support that and of our volunteers that continue to make the room ‘happen’,” she said, noting that the Moose and the community’s donations are what make ongoing use of the Moose Cottage possible.
“What I see is the lifting of spirits. They come in here, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a homemade treat, and it returns people to that home-like environment. It’s a peaceful place for them to come. I also like to say that compassion in this room comes with a cup of coffee. And I think that our volunteers bring that for our patients very well for sure.”
Former City Councillor Bev Hughes and his wife, Faye, emphasized the importance of the Moose Cottage as well.
Bev, who was also instrumental in bringing the Moose Cottage to fruition, suffered a stroke last summer and he also has Parkinson’s Disease, so that has meant several months in hospital.
Having a warm space like the Moose Cottage to enjoy really helps, said Faye.
Bev was a board member of the Hospital from 1992 to 1995, and was a founding board member for the Red Deer Hospital Foundation in 1994.
He also served on City council from 1995 to 2007 as well.
“It’s always gratifying to introduce a new person to the facility,” said Bev.
“You are visiting other people and the volunteers in a different environment. We always appreciate the volunteers, too. We know quite a few of them. So it’s quite gratifying.
“When our family comes, this is also a social gathering (place) for them rather than trying to visit in the hospital room. It’s a gathering place for patients and families.”
Lorraine Corsiatto has been volunteering at Moose Cottage for eight years.
“I think it’s such a good support system,” she said, adding she can see the joy on faces when they take a seat in the room. “People who come to visit will often say, ‘We wish we had a place like this in our hometown’.
“I volunteer because it’s helping the patients. That’s really important to me because it gets them out of their rooms, and gets them into a different atmosphere, and it feels like home,” she said. “Many people come in here and say, ‘Oh, this is just like grandma’s kitchen’. They love it.”