Athol Evans

Our History

The Combined Service Organisations Trust, the forerunner of the Hospital Complex, held its first meeting in early 1972. Sir Athol Evans who was, at that time, the Chairman of the National Council for the Aged, called together the representatives of the various Service Organisations to discuss the terms of a legacy. A sum of Z$25,000 was donated by the late Mrs A E Vanderwaller in order to establish a Centralised ‘C’ Scheme, or Frail Care Hospital, to cater for the needs of the elderly in Mashonaland, and in particular, those in residential care where no such frail care was available.

Rotary International, Lions International, Round Table, Soroptimists and Jaycees met together to determine if it was possible for a hospital to be built and if they were prepared to assist. Having approved the concept, the Trust was formed, bringing together a unique partnership which, apart from the withdrawal of the Jaycees early in the development, has remained to this day.

A great deal of hard work realised the sum of $325,000, the cost of constructing two wards of thirty five beds each, and the necesssary administration buildings such as kitchen, laundry and offices. In addition, a further amount of $76,240 was raised to cover furnishings and equipment.

The Salvation Army was invited to be part of the Trust in order to provide the necessary expertise required in the administration of the Hospital, which admitted its first five patients in August 1977. The official opening ceremony performed by Mr Rowan Cronje, Minister of Manpower and Social Affairs, was held on 8th October that year. To date there have been over 1,600 patients admitted and the demand for accommodation continues unabated.

In order to cope with the increasing demands for beds, an ambitious programme of expansion was commended in 1981 enlarging the kitchen, laundry, lounge and later adding four new residential wards. Sir Athol Evans, the founder of the Complex and its first Chairman, passed away in June 1988 after a lifetime of service to the community in several capacities. The Vice-Chairman, Lionel Meltzer was appointed to that position in March 1976, and then took over the Chair from Sir Athol Evans. He ably guided the affairs of the Complex through its development. He was asked to serve on the first committee to meet and discuss the construction of the Hospital in 1972 and completed thirty years of service. This devotion to service was recognised by The Salvation Army who awarded him their highest honour in 1997 – The Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service. Our current Chairman is Dr Robin Cowper, who succeeded Mr Malcolm Thompson, in 2003.

In 1990 the Complex began constructing two bedroom retirement cottages, and the first ten were occupied by the end of 1991. There are now fifty such units giving the Complex a truly village-like atmosphere. 1991 also saw the commencement of the Chapel project with building starting in April 1994 and being successfully completed in December 1996. Since then, the Chapel has proved to be a source of spiritual comfort to many and the services each Sunday are well attended. The unique design and position of the Chapel have evoked many admiring comments. The nature of the worship, with all denominations coming together, makes this a truly interdenominational Chapel.

In 1995 the Complex began a partnership with “Meals on Wheels”, providing a hot meal twice per week to those who are unable to provide for themselves.

Work commenced the same year on the Community Care Centre, incorporating physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments, and a daycare centre. Regrettably due to economic reasons the latter has not been used as the envisaged daycare centre, and now houses our modern and well-stocked library. The library is open twice weekly for the benefit of our residents and other people associated with the Complex. This building was finally completed after many delays and despite unforeseen problems in 2000. Despite the difficulties this Centre offers the opportunity to serve the community where we are situated. Over the almost thirty years of activity plus another five years of planning, a great deal of time has been given by many members of Service Clubs, other organisations and private individuals. The fact that in this time there have only been four Chairmen speaks highly for the way all members have worked together. The results of that teamwork can be seen today.

Since that time, wards in the Frail Care sections have been refurbished with assistance from our generous donors together with volunteers from The Friends of the Hospital. This is a volunteer group of willing helpers, who turn their talents from baking cakes for special functions (plus every resident in the B and C Schemes have a birthday cake on their special day), pouring teas at services, providing Christmas gifts for our residents, organizing the annual Easter Hat Competition and Garden Party held during the year, plus many more activities within the Complex.