“When Jesus said ‘Love one another as I have loved you,’ that’s nursing!” – George Strong
Fern Lodge was founded and sustained with one guiding goal: to help those in need, regardless of who they are and what they have or don’t have. While the surface of Fern Lodge has changed – the buildings, the faces, the day-to-day – this underlying mission permeates every choice we make and direction we turn, and has since the beginning.
Fern Lodge began in a small house in Hayward when Mindell Fern Cox and her husband, Willard Cox, began providing care for Mindell’s mother. Seeing the loving service they provided, other church members approached them asking for help with their own elderly relatives. It wasn’t long before the Cox’s began looking for a more sustainable way to provide Christian Science nursing on a larger scale and bought the property where we now operate! At the time, it only held the house we currently use as offices and a Christian Science nursing classroom, but within a few years the first version of our main building was built.
Fern Lodge quickly began receiving more and more patients, and it was important to everyone involved that we be able to accept anyone that needed care, regardless of their financial situation. In order to gather the support we needed to accomplish this through donations and government funding, we became a non-profit in November of 1967.
In the 1970s, George changed the trajectory of his life. He came to Arden Wood to train as a Christian Science nurse, because he wanted to learn how to apply Christian Science in his daily life and how to use Christian Science to care for people. In 1978, he began working at Fern Lodge, joining a relatively small staff. By 1979, a trio had formed with him as the On-Job Training Instructor and Director of Training, Camille Lindsey as the Director of Christian Science Nursing, and Bob McVey as the Administrator. Together, the three of them created a slideshow about Christian Science nursing and traveled around Northern California, taking it to branch churches to give presentations. They wanted to spread the idea that Christian Science includes helping people. More Christian Scientists came to our busy facility and our staff began to grow.
At that time, Fern Lodge was not prestigious. But it was a place for people with no other option, and this led to Fern Lodge consistently operating at full capacity. George became administrator in 1981, and it soon became very clear that expansion was sorely needed.
During the 1980s, Fern Lodge maintained an inward focus. What did the patients need? What did the staff need? We wanted to be able to provide on-site Christian Science nursing training and a reputable standard of living. We wanted enough room for patients to live comfortably and happily. We wanted to preserve the feeling of family helping family in a warm home.
In 1983 and ‘84, Fern Lodge expanded the Hillside wing, then called Hillside House, which provided facilities, offices, and the well-loved Living Room Five. In 1985, we bought more property to eventually expand into the Treeside wing, which gave us a lot more space. We added a breakfast kitchen, and, for the first time, patients were able to have their own individual rooms.
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, George, the staff, and Fern Lodge Board of Directors focused on creating a space that was ideal for our patients care and the spread of Christian Science nursing. We’ve cultivated beautiful grounds, renovated and subsidized Christian Science nurses’ housing, and continued to adjust and build infrastructure as needed. While decisions have not always been easy, George and all at Fern Lodge have listened to God for the right path and focused on our values of providing loving Christian Science Nursing care to all who need it, spreading the fundamental spiritual ideas behind it to the community.
As he approaches almost fifty years working at Fern Lodge, George is stepping down as administrator, but will not be stepping back from Fern Lodge or its values. The work he will continue to do for this facility will strengthen the connections within the Christian Science nursing community and spread the reach of our care further to those who need it. George has been a fundamental part of Fern Lodge for decades, and he will continue to be a significant presence forwarding our mission. We appreciate his love and support in the next phase of Fern Lodge.
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