Campbell River Seniors Centre Society asks city for funding for lunch program staff

The Campbell River Seniors Centre Society has turned to the city for help in finance a paid staff position for the lunch program.

At 65 meals a day, five days a week, the Seniors Centre lunch program is an overwhelming success.

But Helen Whitaker, president of the Seniors Centre Society, says with the number of meals increasing and the number of aging volunteers going down, the society needs some help.

With very few options, the Campbell River Seniors Centre Society has turned to the city and is appealing for help in financing a paid staff position.

Whitaker said the society is asking for either partial or full support for a staff position at a cost of $45,000 annually, for roughly 30 hours a week.

She added that the position, which has been running on a trial basis over the last five months, is key to sustaining the lunch program and ultimately, the Seniors Centre which operates out of the Campbell River Common Mall.

“The revenues from the kitchen pay our bills – our Hydro, our insurance, our janitorial – and we now recognize that we cannot sustain this program on a regular basis with volunteers only,” Whitaker told council at last week’s Monday meeting.

Doug Vater, treasurer for the Seniors Society, echoed that.

“The kitchen pays our bills,” he said. “If we were to close the kitchen today, we would not have a Seniors Centre.”

Vater added that implementing the paid position would eat up the revenue the society is currently making from the lunch program but said the plan going forward is to apply for federal and provincial operating grant monies.

The only glitch, Whitaker said, is that in order to qualify for such grants, the society has to have at least one staff position funded for at least a year.

Coun. Ron Kerr likened the situation to a “catch 22” and praised the group for doing what it can with what little it has.

“This group really does carry its weight,” Kerr said. “You’re not always coming with hand out, you do your work. And your food is great, I’ve eaten there.”

Coun. Colleen Evans suggested the Seniors Society pursue Job Creation opportunity grants as well as grants available through NIEFS for reengaging seniors in the workforce.

Whitaker said the society “would be happy” to engage with NIEFS and pursue that suggestion.

In the meantime, council deferred making a decision on the funding request until 2017 budget planning meetings which are scheduled for early December.

Mayor Andy Adams said, however, that the society’s work has not gone unrecognized.

“We are indebted for the work you do on behalf of the seniors in our community,” he said.

The Seniors Centre, which has 650 members, provides 12 to 15 different free activities throughout the week, including a yoga program that is overflowing.

The society has also provided work experience for special needs students on a weekly basis for the last five years, as well as work experience and coaching to special needs adults through NIEFS.

The society also arranges for North Island College and Discovery College nursing students to come to the centre and put on presentations for its membership.