Seniors Centre on the move

Campbell River seniors were forced to move again after talks with the owner of the Campbell River Common broke down

Campbell River seniors were forced to move again after talks with the owner of the Campbell River Common broke down last month.

The Seniors’ Centre, which was located inside the mall in an empty store across from Bootlegger was to relocate to the former Iron Kettle space earlier this month.

But Bruno Fornika, chair of the committee working to find the seniors their own building, said those plans went downhill.

“After extensive discussion with our landlord, Allan Edie, the board of directors of the Seniors’ Centre Society could not reach an agreement and were asked to move,” Fornika said. “This move took place on May 31.”

Since then, the Seniors Centre, which has nearly 600 members, has been operating out of the Radiant Life Community Church on Cypress Street, behind the downtown fire hall and next to Coast Realty. While the seniors, who were left virtually homeless, were thankful to be taken in, it’s a temporary solution.

The Seniors’ Centre is only available and open to the public Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“The Radiant Life church has become our temporary home and we are grateful to them for taking us in,” said Helen Whitaker, a retired nurse and recorder for the seniors’ building committee. “But we need to make some plans for winter when the church becomes busy with its primary mission of service in the downtown area.”

The building is also nowhere near the 8,000 square feet the seniors are looking for.

“Since we only have about 1,000 square feet of space available, we have had to limit the activities that can occur,” Fornika said.

There’s also not enough room to accommodate the pool tables – a staple at the former location.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the lunch program thanks to the kitchen at Radiant Life. Still, on the Seniors’ Centre website, the board of directors promised it is “working hard to find a new bigger location were we can be able to provide a full weekly schedule once again.”

To make good on that promise, the Seniors’ Society has been “looking under every rock to find a larger, more permanent location” Fornika said.

The seniors are currently in discussions with the city to look into the possibility of acquiring the use of the former Evergreen school.

Fornika said the society met with School District 72’s Secretary Treasurer, Kevin Patrick, to discuss that possibility. Fornika also plans to make a presentation to the board of education at its June 25 meeting.

“We hope to make a presentation to try to convince the school board to discuss this matter with the city,” Fornika said.

Whitaker said she would like to see the city get involved.

“We are hoping that the city can help us negotiate access to the empty school,” Whitaker said. “With the help of the city and maybe with another not-for-profit group, we could really transform Evergreen and have it rejuvenated and humming with activities again. Hope and persistence are our primary assets the moment.”

The society has already approached the city a few times in the past. The most recent was in 2009 and again this past April.

The society asked city council to set aside $250,000 for the seniors to renovate any new space they could find but that was turned down because there’s no room in this year’s budget which was set by council in January.

Fornika noted that before 2009, a Seniors’ Centre didn’t even exist in Campbell River and the local group is one of the few Seniors’ Centres in the province that doesn’t get any substantial financial support from its local government. Whitaker said it’s in the city’s best interest to look after its seniors.

“All the successful senior centres that keep seniors active, socially engaged, not using emergency services, and not using social services, those cities (are healthier communities),” Whitaker said. “When you have healthy seniors, you have less use of expensive social services.”

Whitaker also noted that in most Island communities the working model is a partnership between seniors and the municipality, and Campbell River should be no different.

Instead, it’s been up to the seniors. The first Seniors Centre opened on March 1, 2009 at Ironwood Place – a Vancouver Island Health Authority-owned building.