YARMOUTH, NS – When asked what the best part of their senior club is, the three women who answered don’t hesitate to give their answer.
“It’s like a family,” they say in unison.
After two years of the COVID pandemic during which people have felt isolated due to restrictions – and also since many older people live alone – solidarity is important.
“We were a little closed and everyone was eager to get together and start again,” says Carole Goulden, the club’s program coordinator. “We need to get together. A lot of old people are home alone. I’m home alone.”
The Temple Seniors Second Chance Club of Yarmouth meets from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday afternoons in space it rents from Temple Baptist Church, which is located next door on Bond Street. (Some may remember the neighborhood as the location of the old Church of Our Lady.) The venue is also accessible from Trinity Place Street.
play a meaningful role
The community seniors club sees volunteers play an important role in organizing events for seniors, while nurturing them.
Every Thursday at 11 a.m. and again at noon, the club runs a “soup kitchen” from its location, although the soup kitchen menu has evolved into full meals. The club typically feeds around 150 seniors per week.
During the COVID restrictions they only did takeout, but have now returned to eating indoors in their gathering space.
They don’t charge for the soup kitchen but accept donations. Club volunteers come the day before to prepare the ingredients for the meals.
“Sometimes there’s a misconception that Temple Church is doing the soup kitchen, but they’re second-chance elders,” Goulden says.
The soup kitchen will take a break after June and will resume in September.
There’s a lot going on
Keeping people fed is just part of the club, which strives to keep people busy with activities in a social atmosphere on Friday afternoons.
They’re playing bingo, doing puzzles, they’ve asked people to give presentations (or plan to give presentations) on topics ranging from safety and senior services, to nutrition, to awareness scams, and more.
Recently they had a visit from a fisherman who taught the elders about the lobster industry.
They also offered entertainment and lunch is always included.
Hoping to increase the number
They have grown into a club of about 40 members and hope to see membership grow. They also hope to see more of these seniors’ clubs in communities across southwestern Nova Scotia, saying it’s important for seniors to feel connected.
“We try to implement all kinds of different activities,” says Goulden. “It’s good for older people to keep learning. We are never too old to learn.”
On May 6, the club holds a public tea party from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $7 per person. People can pay at the door.
When the weather warms up, they will plan day trips by bus. The cost will be $40.
Club president Janet Champdoizeau says they have applied for grants in the past – and continue to do so – to help run the club, which includes utility coverage. Any funding they receive also helps with the meals and programs they offer.
The money also helps maintain the gathering space and the kitchen; which included the installation of new flooring, the purchase of a new stove, the repair of cabinets and the purchase of dishes, among others.
Champdoizeau says last year they received a $13,000 donation from 100 Guys Who Share Yarmouth County, which was extremely helpful with programming, meals and the venue.
“We serve a wonderful group of seniors, many of whom don’t have anyone at home,” says club member Barb Smith. “We are like a family.”
Going forward, the club will have more leeway given Temple Baptist Church’s plans for the venue. He is looking to expand the space and functionality of his room. He demolished the old house at the front of the hall (this does not affect the current meeting space of the Second Chance Seniors Club) and made plans for a larger multi-purpose gathering area and a reconfiguration of office spaces and meeting rooms, and the addition of restrooms.
These future plans are still ongoing.
Meanwhile, before each weekly Friday gathering, club members recite a pledge that speaks of spreading kindness and helping within the community.
“Help us give a kind word and a generous smile to those less fortunate than us,” reads the pledge.
Anyone interested in joining the club is invited to attend one of their Friday gatherings from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Members pay a dues of $1 per week.
The overall goal is to make everyone feel welcome.
“I keep a list of everyone who joins. I make sure they all get a birthday card. If we learn that someone is sick or bedridden, we do what we can for them. We make sure they are remembered,” says Goulden. “It’s nice to have a big family, and that’s what we are.”