Seniors society looking under every rock for a place to set up a new Campbell River Seniors’ Centre

The Seniors Society is entertaining all offers to find a new building for the Seniors' Centre

Seniors say they have “left no stone unturned” in their search for their own seniors centre after they learned they will have to move to a smaller space in the mall.

The Seniors’ Centre, which occupies a space in the mall across from Bootlegger, is being relocated to the old Iron Kettle restaurant space.

Bruno Fornika, chair of the seniors society building committee, said while the seniors are grateful to Campbell River Common mall owner Alan Edie, the move means the seniors will be losing space.

“We (will) be required to move to the old Iron Kettle site on June,” Fornika told city council at its meeting Tuesday night. “We feel nothing but gratitude toward our landlord. Without his generosity, there would not have been a seniors’ centre in Campbell River. And I repeat again, there would not have been a seniors’ centre. We never received help from anybody else.

“We have 6,000 square feet in our current location, when we move we will lose perhaps 500 of those square feet,” Fornika said.

The seniors are looking for a space with at least 8,000 square feet which it can call its own in order to accommodate a growing membership and programming for members.

Helen Whitaker, recorder for the building committee, said the seniors are desperately searching for a facility.

“We have left no stone unturned. We welcome every single suggestion,” Whitaker said. “We have no naysayers and we have pursued every lead. We know we need 8,000 square feet. We are out of space ladies and gentlemen, we are out of space. We are running programs and we have membership interest in them and we have the volunteer instructors with no space to run those programs.”

Whitaker said according to the 2000-2006 census, there’s been a 31 per cent increase in citizens over the age of 65 in Campbell River and one-half of the city’s population is over the age of 48.

“Ready or not, we are becoming a community of seniors and I prefer ready,” Whitaker said, in urging council for support.

Fornika and Whitaker, on behalf of the seniors society, asked council Tuesday night for $250,000 to help renovate or remodel any building it is able to purchase, lease or have donated. Fornika noted that few seniors centres in B.C. get along without any help from the city and seniors in Campbell River are “over due for some help.”

Fornika suggested the city use some of the gaming funds, which can be used towards seniors programs.

Coun. Andy Adams said unfortunately council has already allocated all of its gaming funds to other groups for 2013 so the request would have to be considered for next year’s budget. But he encouraged the seniors to work with city council and city staff to share information in the search for a new building.

Fornika reiterated that the society is “leaving no stone unturned” and “will consider anything.”

He said the seniors have even looked into the old Evergreen School on the corner of Petersen and Evergreen. But it’s still owned by School District 72 and there are issues surrounding the old roof – in need of repair – that need to be resolved.

“We have looked at a school – that’s a possibility,” Fornika said. “Schools work out well because schools have classrooms, they have a gymnasium and some have a kitchen. We are still investigating. We have looked at everything, from the old Navy League Hall to the paddle wheeler (former floating casino brought from New Westminster to the Elk Falls Mill dock) which this council has looked at before and I just shake my head at that because when we looked at the paddle wheeler it almost brought tears to my eyes, it was that decrepit.”

The Campbell River Seniors’ Centre first opened on March 1, 2009 in a Vancouver Island Health Authority-owned building on Ironwood Street, called Ironwood Place.

Before then, a seniors’ centre did not exist in Campbell River. Once the seniors outgrew that space they approached Edie at the Campbell River Common who has leased out a space in the mall to the seniors at no cost since July 1, 2010.

The Seniors’ Centre provides a reasonably priced lunch and a variety of free activities to its 531 members and 136 volunteers.