It was 50 years ago last month when Molly Rapske and her husband arrived at the Evergreen Baptist home in White Rock.
It would be fair to say things have changed a bit since then.
“When we came here, there were five people on staff, and now there’s probably over 300,” Rapske said Tuesday, from her home on the fourth floor of the campus’s Evergreen Manor building. “It has really grown.”
When the family arrived from Alberta, three children in tow, Evergreen Baptist consisted of a two-storey apartment building and ‘A’ wing, which housed 40 guests.
Over the years, additional wings were added, as well as assisted- and independent-living buildings, a chapel and – most recently – an eight-storey complex-care facility.
“It seemed there was a building project every two or three years,” Rapske said. “People that come in here, they think this place grew up overnight.
“It’s hard to picture it when you don’t know the background. It just started as a thought from two almost-retired pastors who wanted to have a place for their aged congregations.”
For Rapske, the connection began in August 1966, when her husband Rudy began his role as administrator – a position he would hold for 22 years before retiring for health reasons. He passed away not long after.
Initially, the family lived across the street from the six-acre site, on Everall Street, but later moved to a hobby farm in Cloverdale to create some distance between work and home.
“We were too close to work,” Rapske said. “My husband, he was Mr. Fix-it, he was the janitor, he was everything.”
Rapske remembers planning menus for Evergreen’s 40 residents, and picking up food for the meals from Penguin Meats and Supply Ltd. as well as Mary’s Garden. Her role was “matron,” she said – a job she was never paid for, with a title she says was “just a name for the boss’s wife.”
With three children to tend, the task could be challenging at times, she said.
Still, Rapske remained involved, and as the campus expanded, additional staff came on board. To this day, Rapske remains involved with the auxiliary, a group she feels she “grew up with.” It celebrated 50 years last May.
Evergreen chaplain, Rev. Ken Klassen, described Rapske as a “delightful woman” and a “vast resource” regarding Evergreen’s history.
That history marked another milestone last month, with the opening of the Terraces project. Now home for 200 residents – with an official opening expected early next year – it is “fabulous,” Rapske said.
“The building was built so none of the residents had to go into interim residences,” she said. “All the most modern equipment. They planned it well.”
She admits she is not looking forward to demolition of more of Evergreen’s original wings, the ones that lie between the manor she calls home and the new terraces.
“It’s nostalgic, to see all these come down. What time does…” she said.
Still, “it’s progress,” she said.
“You get used to it. What can you do about it?”
As for her own pending milestone – she’ll turn 95 on Sept. 19 – Rapske is determined not to make a big deal about it.
That wasn’t the case five years ago, however, when she turned 90. For that occasion, Rapske asked friends and family to donate $2 for the food bank in lieu of birthday cards. The effort raised $255, and remains a warm memory.
“I’m quite proud of that,” Rapske said.
Thinking back, Rapske describes her life as “a real mishmash.”
“I wouldn’t change a thing.”