January 13, 2017

Light of Hearts Villa showcased in Plain Dealer's "Cool Spaces" series

Light of Hearts Villa, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, was featured in a recent "Cool Spaces" article in The Plain Dealer for the building's many unique features. The Cool Spaces series showcases special homes, condos, businesses and public spaces around Northeast Ohio.

The full text of the article is below:

Cool Spaces: Rose quartz brings sparkle to Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford

It's not every day that you see a building like Light of Hearts Villa, covered in sparkling rose quartz.

The villa, a faith-based, independent assisted living and memory care senior community on Union Street in Bedford, is encased in panels of brilliant pink rose quartz that alternate with contrasting panels of black granite.

"Someone was here for a tour. She taught at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], and she asked if I knew that the energy of pink quartz is love," says Sister Regina Kusnir, the Villa's director of Pastoral and Special Ministries. "She said she felt that when she walked into the building."

Rose quartz is said to be a stone of the heart, a crystal of unconditional love, carrying an energy of compassion and peace, tenderness and healing, nourishment and comfort. About 80 seniors currently live here in small, private suites. There are activities, the seniors receive care as needed, and volunteers drop by to lend a helping hand to seniors and the facility.

The 57,000-square-foot building, designed by the late architect John Lipaj and erected in 1963, began as an all-girls Catholic school named Lumen Cordium High School, which is Latin for Light of Hearts, says Kusnir. Hence, the high school was built with a rose quartz exterior.

The school was run by the Vincentian Sisters of Charity of Bedford. It was closed in 1987 because of declining enrollment. The sisters decided to renovate and convert the building into a place for seniors who need some monitoring but do not require nursing home care.

The Villa is rooted in the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul and St. Louise de Marilla, who founded the first ministry to the elderly in the mid-1600's. The first villa residents moved in on Sept. 1, 1989 after the $3.1 million project.

Light of Hearts Villa operated under the sole sponsorship of the Vincentian Sisters until August 2001, when the sisters formed a partnership with the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. Today the Villa is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Health System.

The three-story villa sits on 23 acres and includes 90 apartments [former classrooms], a large dining room, chapel, multiple gathering areas and a spacious activity area that was a gymnasium when it was a school. The gym's ceiling is another of the building's unusual architectural features. The soaring domed ceiling features a diamond-patterned structure of dark beams.

The facility's round chapel is brightened with a row of 11 tall, textured stained- glass block windows. Sun streaming through the windows creates a soft, spiritual-like kaleidoscope effect, says Ida Stanley, the villa's director of marketing and admissions.

Visitors come to the villa to see its extensive collections of angel figures and creches that were sent from all over the world and are displayed in a large, custom-built case near the reception area. The angel collection began as Christmas gifts to the sisters back in the 1930's. Mother Joseph, former superior of the Vincentians, decided to display the angels many years ago.

"People come from all over Northeast Ohio to see the angels and creches," says Kusnir. "They often come to the area just for this."

The current display will be up through January, she adds.

Visitors also stop by for the Cozy Corner resale gift shop that benefits the villa, and they sometimes leave items behind.

"People donate everything you can possibly imagine," says Stanley. "All of the money goes into the Sister Helen Scasny benevolent fund, created to support residents who have outlived their finances. As a result we do a lot of fundraising activities." 

In the summer, Light of Hearts Villa residents and their visitors enjoy a gazebo, a pond stocked with lily pads and goldfish, and raised garden beds for growing vegetables.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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