Margaret Foster celebrates her 80th at Mary Centre party
"She loves to pose for pictures"
By Jessie Macaulay
As I step inside Fallingbrook Presbyterian Church, the aroma of home-cooked food and the sound of laughter and conversation guide me downstairs. I am at the 80th birthday party of Margaret Foster, resident of the cozy Leyton Avenue Residence of the Mary Centre in Scarborough. The room is decorated in pink streamers and some for Christmas, too. It's a lively scene.
At the epicentre of the party is the guest of honour dressed in pink, of course, sporting a sparkling tiara and a smile to match. She beams as she receives birthday wishes and hugs from her newly arrived guests. Colleen Brempong, residential counsellor at the Leyton Avenue Residence sidles up to me as I wait to speak to Margaret amongst her friends. "She loves to pose for pictures!" says Colleen. I keep the camera handy.
Between greetings, I squeeze in a quick conversation with Margaret. She is sitting between bouncing balloons in front of a decadent pink and white birthday cake. Pink, she tells me, is her favourite colour. We chat about her life before coming to live at the Leyton Residence and how much happier she is now. Her room is decorated exactly to her liking and she emphasized how important her privacy and independence are to her. "You know, I love to go out and do things!" she exclaims. Before I can ask another question, a gentleman approaches the table and this reporter is suddenly a thing of the past. Margaret's attention is now fully on Dominic Conforti. After a great big hug, Margaret delightedly poses for several pictures with the now retired executive director of the Mary Centre.
I ask Mr. Conforti about the history and goals of the Centre in Scarborough. The Leyton Avenue Residence where Margaret lives was the first home the Centre opened, he notes, and indeed Margaret was one of the very first residents. The Centre was begun by a group of families who were striving for better care for their adult loved ones with developmental delays. The Leyton Residence is a home that looks very much like any other home on the avenue. I ask Mr. Conforti about the significance of this. "To be integrated into the community is very, very important" he says, nodding. He spoke of the intention at the Centre to focus on individuals, their comforts, and their hopes. Returning to Margaret after our conversation, he does not leave her side for the remainder of the party, not even when lunch is served.
Oxtail, roast beef, potatoes, and salad are but a few of the dishes on the menu. The ambient noise in the room drops slightly as everyone tucks in. A guitar is brought out by a musician named Joel and, before long, everyone is singing and clapping along to Christmas classics. Margaret gleefully belts out "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Silver Bells," among many others. She moves her wheelchair along to the music, stopping only to pose for more pictures, the smile never leaving her face.