One of the most important institutions in St Mary's is Heathlands, the residential and care home for the Jewish Community.
I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the facilities today along with Cllr Donal O'Hanlon, and had the privilege of meeting a number of the residents. A number of my relatives have lived in Heathlands, and I'd been many times before, but I'd never been given "the tour," and there were lots of parts of the place that I hadn't seen. And Donal's mother was a nurse there many years ago, so he had the chance to see how the place had changed over the years.
There are many activities and some fine facilities for older people with all types of needs, and Heathlands really is a wonderful place, thoroughly deserving its reputation and its place in the hearts of local people. The nursing and care staff were remarkable, and the managers, catering and cleaning staff whom we met seemed equally as loving towards the residents as well.
One of the most remarkable people I met was Joe Stone, who celebrates his 100th birthday this weekend, and for whom the staff had organised a big party today. Joe is as fit as a fiddle, walking and talking like a man half his age. An accomplished artist and organ player into his 90's, Joe's paintings hang proudly throughout the building, and the sheer number of cards he received for his birthday is testament to the affection in which he is held.
Above is a picture of me with Joe Stone. Happy birthday to Joe, and I hope there are plenty more telegrams fro The Queen to go along with the one he will receive tomorrow!
I would like to thank the staff and residents of Heathlands for allowing us to visit this morning, and for showing us round. They deserve our credit for involvement in such a wonderful place.