In 1964, a group of young Chinese Canadians convened to discuss the persistent challenges faced by the Chinese community. Brought together by Rev. Ronald Con, minister of Toronto’s Chinese Presbyterian Church, they established the Mon Sheong Foundation to promote Chinese culture through the pursuit of worthwhile projects. Taking its name from Lord Mengchang (also translated as Lord Mon Sheong; a man of legendary generosity who lived in China around 300 BC), the Foundation officially registered with the Ontario government in 1965. Aside from being assigned its charity registration number in 1967, it was also recognized by the federal government that year, cementing Mon Sheong’s status as the first Chinese charitable organization in Canada.

Mon Sheong’s board of directors comprises approximately twenty philanthropists from business, healthcare, and other professional backgrounds. The Foundation also operates under the distinguished honorary patronage of Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and her predecessors.

Board of Director Meeting

In 1965, Mon Sheong started evening English classes for new immigrants, as well as conversational Chinese classes for their children, at Orde Street Public School. Partnering with the Toronto Board of Education, the Foundation began to hold evening Chinese classes for adults at Bickford Park High School in 1967. In 1968, the Mon Sheong Foundation Chinese School was officially introduced, eventually establishing three campuses in the Greater Toronto Area. Ping Shao Quan took over as principal in 1973 and, under his leadership, the School began to receive the financial support of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada; during this time, the School’s student population grew remarkably from 47 to over 1,600, becoming what was likely the largest private Chinese school in Canada.

Today, the Chinese School offers thirteen levels of instruction for students aged three and above. Its three campuses, located in North York, Markham, and Richmond Hill, educate over a 1,000 students each year through a diverse curriculum of Chinese classes taught in Cantonese and Putonghua, a conversational Cantonese program, a conversational Putonghua program, and mathematics classes. Next year will mark the School’s 50th anniversary.

Chinese school student writes chinese letters

The Mon Sheong Youth Group was founded in 1969 with Victor Wong serving as its first president and Margaret Mui its first advisor. To celebrate its launch, the Foundation organized a skating party at Nathan Phillips Square. The Youth Group’s objective was to bring together the Chinese youth in the community, allowing them to meet and get to know one another while engaging in meaningful work; it also provided them with opportunities to develop leadership and teamwork skills. In 2002, the Youth Chapter (for individuals aged 14 to 17) and Young Leaders’ Chapter (ages 18 to 30) were introduced, making it easier to create dedicated programs and activities for high school students, postsecondary students, and young professionals. Working under the guidance of a sub-committee, these two chapters meet regularly to contribute to Mon Sheong’s charitable projects in a spirit of fun, goodwill, and community.

Volunteers are important pillars of the Mon Sheong Foundation. From serving on its board of directors and various committees to helping out at the Foundation’s senior facilities, Chinese school, and fundraising activities, the integral role they play at every level cannot be overstated.

outh group dragon boat red panda team

Since its inception, the Foundation has embraced the Chinese virtue of caring for the elderly. Thanks to the support of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Mon Sheong Home for the Aged was opened on May 7, 1975 as a residential home for 65 seniors on D’Arcy Street, providing a culturally suitable environment for elderly Chinese Canadians. As one of the early community hubs, different Chinese organizations would often gather there to discuss their future direction and plans. Later, the Home would also develop outreach programs such as launching a Chinese meals on wheels service and holding health talks in conjunction with other groups.

The Foundation was also happy to support the efforts of other organizations catering to seniors within the community, including the Chinese Senior Citizens Recreation Society and the Chinese Seniors Home Support Services Association. Mon Sheong’s volunteers would pay frequent visits to Chinese seniors and organize activities and dinner gatherings for them to enjoy.

In 1985, a major renovation of the Home was successfully completed, with 34 of the existing spots being converted to extended care beds (equivalent to the standard of nursing home beds). The building’s improvements led to an increase in the autonomy and privacy of the residents, and expanded nursing care and other services were also added. In terms of bed count, the Home could now be considered more than half of a fully operating nursing home.

By the end of 1985, the Foundation felt that the Home was too small to fulfill the needs of the community and dreamed of further developing its senior care services. A feasibility study was completed in 1987, focusing on areas with large concentrations of Chinese Canadian seniors as well as a financial assessment of the required costs.

In 1990, Mon Sheong was awarded 40 new nursing home beds by the Ministry of Health and proceeded to acquire the land adjacent to the Home. On June 29, 1997, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Home for the Aged to lay the cornerstone for its new wing. Upon the completion of the extension in 1999, the Home’s capacity grew from 65 to 105 extended care beds. Having the Home close to the families and familiar landmarks of Toronto’s Chinatown was an early priority for the Foundation. By this time, the Home was also serving as a convenient medical centre for seniors residing in the area and offered a day program for those who wished to live at home. Mon Sheong would broaden its impact with its Chinese meals on wheels service, ensuring that seniors who lived independently could also enjoy nutritious meals fitting their tastes.

After that, the Foundation actively sought new ways to realize its dream. In 2000, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care granted Mon Sheong permission to construct two new long-term care centres. The Mon Sheong Richmond Hill Long-Term Care Centre added 192 care beds in 2003 while the Mon Sheong Scarborough Long-Term Care Centre entered into operation in 2004, providing 160 care beds for seniors and individuals with long-term care needs. Combined with the 105 care beds at the Mon Sheong Home for the Aged, the Foundation was now providing a total of 457 care beds within the Greater Toronto Area.

All three of these facilities provide culturally appropriate care services for seniors, physically or mentally disabled individuals, and those with dementia. The around-the-clock nursing care helps to minimize any issues arising from delayed medical attention, and a robust security protocol ensures that all the residents receive a high degree of protection. The staff and management of the homes meet regularly with the residents’ families to enhance communication and discuss the conditions and needs of the residents.

In 2017, Mon Sheong’s three long-term care centres and adult day program each received CARF’s Three-Year Accreditation once again, the highest level of accreditation by the reputable international accreditor of health and human services. This achievement demonstrates the Foundation’s continued commitment to its residents and families as well as its ability to keep up with the international standard.

Around the world, the aging population is an undeniable phenomenon, and the demand for long-term care services is steadily increasing. Today, there are more than 4,300 elderly Chinese Canadians waiting to be admitted into one of Mon Sheong’s long-term care homes; the average wait time is between three and five years. For these seniors, this can be a very long and arduous process.

Long Term Care Centre senior chats with registered nurse

To meet the needs of seniors living in York Region and to help lessen the burden on their caregivers, the Mon Sheong Adult Day Program was launched at the Richmond Hill Long-Term Care Centre in 2008. By engaging the participants in a variety of activities, the program looks to help them maintain and improve their functioning ability while supporting their caregivers by providing relief, counselling, and education, reducing or delaying the need for around-the-clock care.

In addition to hot meals, the program also offers a number of client-focused activities tailored to their social, mental, and physical needs. Care services such as basic health monitoring, group physiotherapy sessions, dietary consultations, and sensory stimulation activities promote independence, health and wellness, and a positive lifestyle among the participants.

Adult day program seniors are happy to attend workshop

Recognizing the need to reach out to even more seniors around the community, the Foundation established its two Mon Sheong Community & Volunteer Services Centres in Scarborough and downtown Toronto. They provide a welcoming place for Mon Sheong’s volunteers, Youth Group members, and seniors around the community to gather, socialize, and build meaningful friendships, and also offer an extensive list of programs, seminars, and recreational courses to cater to the interests of its visitors. Participants are invited to join the Senior Circle, the Centres’ dedicated club for members aged 50 and older. Friends of the Senior Circle are not only able to enjoy the Centres’ facilities and activities, but are also eligible to receive discounts on any recreational course fees.

Vlunteer hands out gift to seniors

Completed in 2008, Scarborough Mon Sheong Court is the first independent living senior apartment project of the Mon Sheong Foundation, enabling more seniors to enjoy a tailored quality lifestyle. Situated next to the Mon Sheong Scarborough Long-Term Care Centre, its 242 life lease suites provide an unparalleled housing option for seniors aged 55 and older. Each Mon Sheong Court features a 24-hour monitoring system and an emergency medical alert call system installed in each unit and along the corridors. The suites are thoughtfully designed to suit the specialized needs of seniors while the building’s amenities include a multifunction activity hall, a well-equipped recreation centre, a card room, a library, an elegantly furnished dining room with available meal delivery services, and an on-site clinic and pharmacy, allowing the residents to conveniently do what they want without having to step outside.

Following the success of Scarborough Mon Sheong Court, Richmond Hill Mon Sheong Court was completed in 2014, providing 353 units to the community. And the first phase of Markham Mon Sheong Court, located on Sun Yat-Sen Avenue, welcomed its first residents in 2016, adding more than 460 units; completion of the second phase is expected in 2018.

Scarborough Mon Sheong Court residents are singing

The Richmond Hill and Markham Mon Sheong Care Complexes house the Foundation’s Assisted Living, Private Care, and Charity Care initiatives to help alleviate the problem of insufficient long-term care beds being available to the public.

Mon Sheong Private Care is an innovative new service for the community. Because it is not funded by the government, applicants are not subject to the government’s lengthy waiting lists for admission. Richmond Hill Private Care comprises 92 care beds, and Markham Private Care comprises 50 beds, available for both short-term stays and longer-term accommodation. Regular amenities include ninety minutes of individually-tailored professional care services each day, nutritious meals and snacks, and 24-hour nursing personnel on duty.

The Foundation’s self-funded Charity Care service also receives no government funding. It enables seniors who require financial support and are waiting for a long-term care bed to receive the appropriate medical and support services, providing caregiver relief and a temporary alternative for seniors and families with pressing needs. Applicants only have to undergo Mon Sheong’s health and financial assessments to qualify for admission; however because the number of available beds is limited, each applicant can only stay for up to one month. Evidently, for both Private Care and Charity Care to carry on, both initiatives require the enthusiastic support of the community.

Private Care residents are playing board game together

Over the years, the Mon Sheong Foundation has continuously evolved to keep up with the changing needs of our society. Even as our three long-term care centres and other initiatives are doing their part to benefit the community, we know we must relentlessly improve to maintain our high quality standards and expand the scope of our services. At the same time, your generous support is urgently required. We are counting on your partnership as we continue “Sharing and Caring with You by Our Side”.