In the fall of 2012, two retired women, Nellie Kingsbury with 38 years’ experience working with seniors and Karen Abbott a lifelong volunteer envisioned a seniors’ drop-in centre to address the social isolation problem affecting the senior population in the Town of Renfrew and outlying areas. After much discussion and under the auspices of Renfrew & Area Seniors Home Support (RASHS) they applied for an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grant. The Centre would fit in with RASHS’ mandate to provide assistance to seniors living independently. In March 2013 they were awarded the grant to pilot a Seniors’ Activity Centre.
Nellie Kingsbury agreed to manage the project and a location on the Main Street was secured in May 2013. The vacant store location required cleaning and organizing of the contents that had been left behind. By mid-June other interested parties were enlisted to help out with a pre-opening garage sale to raise funds for the Centre. During that time Nellie and Karen collaborated in designing a practical volunteer system so that the members could also help manage the centre. Another volunteer with experience in not for profit organizations provided orientation sessions with the new volunteers and emphasized that “Job 1” was to ensure that all who walked through the doors were made welcome. The Renfrew Golden Age Activity Centre (GAAC) opened on July 2, 2013.
Through the year memberships became available to the public. Nellie and Karen with RASHS continued to apply for grants from the Federal and Provincial governments. . With each successful application purchases were made for the Centre such as sound equipment, musical instruments, a stove, room divider, computers, games, a stage area and other necessities. Word quickly spread among seniors about this new gathering place in the town. Community partnerships were formed and donations accepted. The pilot project was a success with 270 individuals becoming members, 35 volunteers recruited, 6524 total visits of which 4511 were for programs, 42 community partners and sponsors recruited and seniors from 6 municipalities being served. With the support of grants from the United Way and New Horizons, fundraising and donations, the centre is continuing to operate.
The operation of this Centre is now overseen by an advisory committee who reports to the RASHS Board. The activity and programming scheduling, managing the volunteers, overseeing on site operations is supervised by the staff Administrator/Programmer. Volunteers take ownership in the Centre by mentoring, hosting, contributing supplies and recruiting members. GAAC has formed significant partnerships with other not-for- profit organizations and businesses in its catchment area.
In the time that the Centre has been open it has become an institution for seniors in this area. It provides them with a meeting place to socialize, to embrace educational opportunities, to enjoy travel excursions, for health resources, for entertainment and always a friendly atmosphere. With continued support from governments at all levels, community partners, donations, fundraising and the membership it is hoped the Centre will be sustainable and remain open for the seniors in the area. For further information on how you can help maintain the Centre contact:
Golden Age Activity Centre