The Complete History of Fern Lodge

Fern Lodge has a history of progress marked by growth in service to Christian Scientists.  Mrs. Mindell Fern Cox gave her name to the Lodge in 1952 when she and her husband, Willard, opened their home to a Christian Scientist who needed care.  Soon they were caring for 6 guests.  The present site was purchased in 1957, and the Coxes were able to expand and serve 12.  The Hillside House was built in 1963 to increase the capacity to 25 guests.  Accreditation by The Mother Church came in 1966.  In 1967 Fern Lodge was incorporated, and the Coxes began looking for others to run it.  Mrs. Cox became Journal-listed as a Christian Science practitioner.

In 1970 Fern Lodge, Inc. was formed as a non-profit corporation.  The transfer of ownership from the Coxes was completed on July 1, 1971.  During these early years valuable leadership on the Board was provided by Henry Curran and Bob Sperr as well as Herbert Mitchell, who had served as a director of Harmony Haven, a Christian Science nursing home in Berkeley.  Emily Valentine, an experienced Christian Science nurse, came out of retirement intending to give 2 years service as Administrator and Director of Nursing.  She served selflessly for 8 years.

The addition of the present kitchen, dining room and Christian Science nursing offices in 1975 resulted in room for 5 more guests.  Remodeling of the Creekside living room was completed in 1978, and new patient rooms were added in ’79 and ’80 to relieve crowding in some small double rooms.  The capacity of Fern Lodge was then 28 patients.  In 1984 expansion of Hillside resulted in the addition of the east side of the hall, including the living room, linen closet, Christian Science practitioner’s room, century tub and hairdresser’s room.  This project added new patient rooms so Fern Lodge was able to move the offices from the old Hillside addition to the north wing of Creekside.  The most recent addition to Fern Lodge was occupied in 1989 and is now called the Treeside wing.  It includes 20 patient beds, support and storage rooms, a Christian Science nurses station and Christian Science Nursing Department offices.  This addition doubled the floor area of the facility while keeping the capacity of 28.  The rooms in Hillside were converted to single occupancy, and the result has been a quieter, more gracious appearance and atmosphere.

A key factor in attracting and retaining Christian Science nursing staff members is Fern Lodge’s ability to provide affordable housing. In the 1990’s four rooms in Creekside were remodeled to give two apartments with a shared kitchen, and two rooms in Hillside were combined to make one apartment with a kitchen.  These three apartments were intended to be accommodations for more independent patients, but they have been used for Christian Science nursing staff housing since they were completed.  Also in the 1990’s a private bathroom was added to the bedroom in the office of Creekside, and this room is used for rest and study, and as overnight accommodation for Christian Science nurses if there is a need.

Christian Science Nurse aide training has been available at Fern Lodge since 1971.  George Strong began Christian Science nursing as an aide at Fern Lodge in 1975. He then attended the training school at Arden Wood because Fern Lodge could not offer training at that time.  George returned to Fern Lodge 1978 to be the on-job-training instructor so Fern Lodge could participate in the Christian Science nurses training program that was then required by The Mother Church.  Emily Valentine was still Administrator and Director of Christian Science Nursing, and Bob McVey was office manager.  At that time, because of an acute need, Fern Lodge asked Arden Wood if a Christian Science nurse on their staff could fill in for a month.  Camille Lindsay agreed to meet that need, but before the month was over Emily had to resign suddenly.  Bob was asked to be Administrator, and Camille agreed to be Director of Christian Science Nursing.  For more than three years Bob, Camille and George did much to raise the standard of Christian Science nursing care at Fern Lodge.

Bob McVey left Fern Lodge in 1981, and George Strong was asked to be Administrator.  Camille Lindsay continued as Director of Christian Science Nursing, until she resigned in 1986, and Pat Alvarez was offered the position.  Pat had served as a volunteer at Fern Lodge in the early 1970’s and in 1978 attended the first Adventure in Christian Science Nursing workshop conducted by George Strong.  Pat was the first Journal-listed Christian Science nurse trained at Fern Lodge, and after she graduated she worked as staff Christian Science nurse, on-job training instructor, and assistant Director of Christian Science Nursing.  Pat brought wonderful inspiration and insights into the spiritual nature of care.  When Pat Alvarez resigned in 1999, the Fern Lodge board asked Sharon Strong to serve as Director of Christian Science Nursing. Before she came to work as a staff Christian Science nurse at Fern Lodge, Sharon had years of experience as a Christian Science visiting nurse, instructor at Christian Science nurses training schools, and Director of Christian Science Nursing at a Christian Science nursing facility in Washington.  Sharon’s inspiration and steadfast commitment to Christian Science nursing and to Fern Lodge helped to bring the facility into the position of respect we now have among Christian Science practitioners and nurses, as well as other Christian Science nursing facilities, across the country.

The Fern Lodge board and administrative teams have regularly sought fresh ways to share our love of Christian Science nursing with our community. We publish newsletters, from two to four per year, which include articles that give the readers an increased spiritual understanding of God’s care for His children.  We hold annual meetings, with inspirational talks, in local branch churches.  We have offered several Adventures in Christian Science Nursing at the facility.  We prepared a slide show on Christian Science nursing that was shown at over 30 branch churches in California and also at four branch churches in Europe, where it was helpful to the group who were just starting Christian Science facilities in Germany and Switzerland.  We have shared an audio tape on benevolence with branch churches.  We prepared a video tape on Christian Science nursing and facilities that was widely shared in California and other states.  We have given talks at branch church business meetings and conducted seminars on the role of Christian Science nursing in our church and community at Fern Lodge and in branch churches.  We hosted a benevolence seminar for California facility representatives and a seminar for Christian Science nurses.  We conduct care workshops for branch churches in northern California.

We also have had the opportunity to share Christian Science nursing with the community.  An article that told of a wonderful Christian Science healing that took place at Fern Lodge was printed in local newspapers and a national magazine.  George Strong gave an informational talk at Cal State University, Hayward, to a class in the nursing department.  George and Pat spoke to chaplains, social workers and nursing staff members at Washington Hospital in Fremont and Gladman Hospital in Oakland.

As a result of the quality of Christian Science nursing demonstrated at Fern Lodge, George has been asked to speak to a number of Christian Science organizations.  These talks include inspirational talks with Christian Science nursing staff at two facilities and the Christian Science community at another, annual meeting addresses at three facilities and three Christian Science visiting nurse services, and three talks at meetings of other Christian Science benevolent organizations.

The steady, progressive growth of Fern Lodge can be attributed to the solid foundation of loving care provided by Mr. and Mrs. Cox and to the unfailing, generous support of Christian Scientists in the field.  The dedicated work of the Staff and Board members who have been touched by the idea that is Fern Lodge has resulted in blessing for all.