Fifty years ago, J.H. (Jack) Pickford, a key Baptist leader in western Canada, saw the need for retirement housing for overseas missionaries who were returning home after years of service.
That vision grew, through the years, into Baptist Housing, a comprehensive approach to faith-based retirement living that serves 2,000 seniors and employs close to 1,000 people in 16 communities, in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Armstrong.
Howard Johnson, Baptist Housing president and CEO for the past five years – and a long time senior manager in the organization – says the services meet a range of seniors housing needs in a “holistic” way.
“We have social housing, care residences, assisted living affordable, apartment and independent housing. A full range of social activities and chaplaincy services are available [on site],” Johnson said in a phone interview.
The first ever facility, developed 50 years ago, was Clarendon Court, located at 48th Avenue and Elliott Street in southeast Vancouver, adjacent to Faith Fellowship Baptist Church – a member of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches Pacific, with which Baptist Housing is affiliated.
Two other Baptist denominations, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) and the North American Baptists (NAB), have also been involved with seniors and social housing in Metro Vancouver. CBWC developed Beulah Garden Homes on 5th Avenue just east of Rupert Street in Vancouver, and another project next to White Rock Baptist Church in South Surrey. NAB has a community in Richmond, near Rose of Sharon Church.)
Johnson points out that, while the initiatives that have helped make Baptist Housing strong have their origins in the Christian faith, the projects serve a wide range of people coming from many walks of life and backgrounds. A core value, he points out, is “servant leadership” of the kind that Jesus exhibited in the gospels.
From 1964, new projects rolled out at regular intervals. Grandview Towers, an East End landmark near First Avenue and Clark Drive, came on stream in 1973; Maple Towers, next to Maple Ridge Baptist Church, went up in 1983; Shannon Oaks was built in 2001 next to Clarendon Court, which was redeveloped in 2006.
Recent news reports indicate that BC Housing properties with long-term leases to non-profit housing organizations will be turned over to the lessees, in order to permit the operators to make fiscal plans for future expansion and redevelopment.Baptist Housing will not be involved in such transactions because, while the organization receives BC Housing support for some of its projects, all its property is owned outright, not leased from BC Housing.
Below are four brief stories from people involved in one way or another in Baptist Housing’s Metro Vancouver activities, from the 50th anniversary report.
David and Johnson
Residents: Grandview Towers, Vancouver
David worked in a trading company in Hong Kong while his wife Emily was a primary teacher. Johnson lived in Mainland China and worked as an engineer before moving as immigrant with his family to Canada. Today, David and Johnson are key people who the team can rely on to coordinate the Chinese community in Grandview Towers, especially during Chinese New Year.
Sodexo partner: Clarendon Court, Vancouver
Lovely was born in India, where she met her husband and was blessed with two children. Her husband immigrated to Canada and Lovely and their children followed a few years later. After initially settling in Montreal, they soon moved to BC because of the cold weather. In BC, Lovely found her first job with Sodexo (an international service organization that partners with various non-profits), and has been serving at Clarendon Court for almost nine years now.
Jack and Shirley
Residents: Shannon Oaks, Vancouver
“They say that life begins at 40, but for me life started over at 80,” says Jack. It was at this point that Jack had a successful bypass operation. After retiring, he and his wife gave away their car, got bus passes and settled into bliss-filled life at Shannon Oaks. They say they don’t make meals anymore, just friends.
Team member: Clarendon Court, Vancouver
When Dhez came to Canada in 2007, she did so with hopes of providing a better life for her seven month old son and husband in the Philippines. Through her family in BC and their church, she came to Christian faith. In 2013, she became a permanent resident of Canada. She has been happily reunited with her family, and continues to serve faithfully as a Resident Services Assistant.