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Saying farewell

Tara Smith is retiring from Queens Manor March 28 after working there for 36 years.
Tara Smith is retiring from Queens Manor March 28 after working there for 36 years. - Aethne Hinchliffe

Long-time employee will miss her Queens Manor family

LIVERPOOL – Tara Smith walked into Queens Manor April 1, 1982. Almost exactly 36 years later – on March 28, 2018 - she’ll be hanging up her many job hats and retiring.

“Before that, I was here just doing some casual nursing shifts, but then I started as the recreation director,” said Smith, director of recreation and volunteer services.

At that time, Smith’s job title was activities director. When Smith began her career, the field was a relatively new one in Canada.

“In this field, I was probably one of the first on the South Shore,” she said.

Smith was one of the pioneers of recreation in Nova Scotia. To navigate her job and the field in general, Smith began to build connections with people and do research. She worked with a colleague and the provincial government to eventually develop an activity programmers’ course.

Since Smith began her career, the field of recreation has evolved, and so, too, have residents’ needs.

“I used to be able to do the basic programs – like exercise and bingo and all those things,” she explained. “Since then, things have changed so drastically that now I have to look at each individual and think, ‘How can I better meet their needs here at Queens Manor?’”

One of Smith’s earliest memories of working at the manor is how staff would interact with residents. Someone from housekeeping might sit and play a game of cards with a resident, while another staff member might have a chat with another resident.

That’s changed, says Smith, because everyone is so busy in her or his job.

“I remember that feeling of family,” she added.

Smith describes one of her “most treasured” memories. She left the hospital with her almost newborn baby daughter – who’s now in her 30s – and the first stop was the manor. Two residents held her baby that day.

Smith’s children have spent a lot of time at Queens Manor over the years.

“I pretty well lived here,” said Smith.

If she was going to the manor for a program in the evening, her girls would join her.

“The residents knew them as well as they knew me,” she said.

Working with volunteers

Another component of Smith’s job has been to work with volunteers.

“Our volunteers that we have here are the backbone of Queens Manor,” she said. “We have probably a range of 45 volunteers that come through the doors here every day and support what we, as a recreation department, are able to do.”

Having so many volunteers allows programs like creative art to happen, Smith explained. Bingo is another program that relies on volunteers. The weekly activity takes about eight people to help run. Volunteers prepare the prizes and cards, among other things. This allows Smith’s programmers to work with residents that can’t go to bingo.

Saying goodbye

Smith says leaving the manor will be difficult, but she’ll depart knowing she’s done a lot of important work throughout her career.

“Having successes and seeing a difference that you make in residents’ lives, and I see that every day,” said Smith about one of the most gratifying things about working at Queens Manor.

She says there’s a resident that has been writing his memoirs, and Smith saw him change and gain the ability to do that.

“When you see a resident in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and you get down and you tap them on the leg and look them in the eye and they smile back at you, that’s what makes the difference to me,” said Smith. “That’s why I come here every day and why I’m enthusiastic about it.”

One of the first things Smith plans to do when retired is head to Asia to visit her daughter, who is now having a baby of her own.

“I will do a lot of travelling,” said Smith.

At home, she plans to become more involved with the community. Already actively involved with the Queens Community Health Board, Smith would also like to become engaged with the Liverpool International Theatre Festival.

“I will miss the residents,” Smith says. “That’s what kept me coming back. The smiles and brightening their days will be what I will miss.”

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