On January 31, 2022, the first pole of the future Espace Saint-Julien opened! 6 years to the day after the first meeting of a few volunteers who were wondering about a project aiming at bringing together different generations in a single living space. “An immense joy” for Benoît Gruau, one of the founding members and president of the Saint-Julien Endowment Fund.
What does the opening of the first of the 7 poles that will eventually make up the Espace Saint-Julien mean to you? Six years after the beginning of the adventure?
It is a great joy to see the first beneficiaries of this crazy project arrive! Who would have thought that we would succeed in completely rehabilitating this former hospital? Six years ago, when we started this adventure as simple volunteers and without any financial resources…
Today, we are really happy to open the Maison de santé. It is one of the seven poles that will constitute this intergenerational living space by the end of the year. This is an important milestone because the two young doctors who came to Laval with their families for this project are the first to take over a health activity in this former hospital, which was closed in 1974 after serving the people of Laval for a thousand years! It is therefore an excellent thing to be able to meet a significant demand in Mayenne, which is considered a medical desert. It will also provide the services of a psychologist and, soon, a psychiatrist. The opening of this first center is the beginning of a wonderful human adventure!
What are the next steps in the project?
After the health center, we will open the 68 apartments of the Logis in the spring, for which 22 seniors have already expressed their desire to live there. Then in September, we will open the Cabane, the Nid, the Cale, the Coloc and the Internat. The year 2022 will therefore be marked by all these openings and by the end of the year. Almost all the centers should be open to make up the Espace Saint-Julien. A place of life that we want to be intergenerational, social and educational.
What do you remember from the last 6 years?
The Saint-Julien project was born from the will of volunteers who wanted to put their skills at the service of a cause that was completely beyond them. And I think that is our strength. A colossal amount of work was done by everyone, giving of their time, their skills and their talents. Of course, we had to hold on, to keep the faith in this project. But the specificity that unites these volunteers – today about forty – is the unity and the joy of living. These two aspects are essential to the success of a project of this scale and above all to keep to the course we set ourselves from the beginning: to allow all those who will be welcomed at Saint-Julien to find a warm and caring atmosphere.
Have you ever doubted?
To say that I never doubted would be a lie! Yes, there were moments of discouragement. But the fact that we were a united and complementary team, that’s what carried us all. When one was discouraged, the others supported and pushed him. Finally, there has always been this faith and unity because we believe in this project. The fact of knowing that this place has 1000 years of history in Laval, of bringing it to life, that has always carried us.
At the beginning it was probably a crazy project: we had to believe in it to take over a space like this! But what kept us going were all the volunteers who committed themselves in a spirit of generosity. Those who joined us as we went along, bringing new blood and new ideas. I would like to salute this commitment. It is our wish to continue to allow those who wish to come and give their time. To share their talents with the future inhabitants of Saint-Julien, to create a link between all.
I would like to finish by thanking in particular our benefactors who have believed in our project for the common good, some of whom have trusted us from the beginning of the adventure. Without them, we would never have reached this point. In the name of the people who will be welcomed at Saint-Julien in the next few months, I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.