Archive for May 2011
Author: A.Furtado, Citizen Journalist
A delegation from the Central Saanich Senior Citizens Association (CSSCA) attended the March 7th Central Saanich Council Meeting to request funding for programs and repairs to their aging building. The building which is owned by the municipality (adjacent to the Brentwood Bay library), was originally a 1970’s residential home that was provided by the municipality and moved onto the site in 1982. The building was then renovated and completed by donations from the community and countless hours of volunteer labour provided by organizations such as the Lions Club. According to a historical account of the construction by former member Richard King, a condition of the municipality for providing this building was that the seniors were not to ask for further municipal funds, either for the construction or the operations of the organization.
As the demand for senior services increased over the years, the organization outgrew their home and undertook the enormous task of fundraising to build an addition. In 1991 the addition was completed, virtually doubling the amount of infrastructure requiring maintenance. Although the municipality does continue to honour their original agreement which allows the seniors to lease the building (and the addition) for $1.00 per year, the seniors are required to pay for every cost associated with up-keep and maintenance.
“Without any paid staff, these volunteers contribute over 10,000 hours of service per year, which saves local governments and taxpayers $140,000 per year in labour,” states Gladys Otto, one of the founding members of CSSCA. Currently the seniors’ primary source of revenue comes from Bingo, hosting dinners, offering space rentals and donations. However, with 26,000 people coming through the centre in 2010, Bingo and fundraising are not enough to support their increasing costs. And these costs are starting to threaten the programs they offer. To save what little money they have, the seniors have tried to do everything themselves.
But when major repairs started to surface on the municipality’s aging building, the seniors had to face reality; Bingo was not going to pay the $40,000-$100,000 that they were quoted to replace the roof. As a result, the seniors proposed to council that the municipality contribute an annual grant of $18,000 per year, so they can continue to provide much needed services to the community and also to begin repairing the tired structure they are leasing.
The amount of money the seniors requested ($1500.00 per month), is almost what the seniors spend on monthly utility bills alone. According to CSSCA President Braunda Gustafson, after making their application to council, “The council had few questions for us and gave us little indication if they were planning to help.” The application was then forwarded to the finance committee. At the next Regular Council Meeting, held on March 21, 2011, council denied their request for funding this year. They were invited to apply for a “Grant-in-Aid” for 2012 which would be considered in October of this year, but there are no guarantees that their application will be approved. Councillor Adam Olsen stated, “We have directed the staff to speak to the CSSCA regarding their upcoming repairs…There may be an opportunity in the future to address the needs of the seniors’ centre, while upgrading the library at the same time.”
In the meantime, with mounting repairs on the horizon like a crumbling chimney, the seniors will have to work harder to find ways to raise much needed funds. But the seniors are resilient and continue to find strength in one another. They will continue to host their Bingo every Wednesday and hope that new faces will join them. As well, they would like the community to know they have meeting space available for rent, at very reasonable rates, for those who are interested. For many seniors “The Centre” is a second home, a place which has a positive effect on their well-being and on their connection with the community. And as people who have survived some of the most difficult of times, they will continue to be optimistic and find a way of providing a welcoming place for everyone who walks through their doors. For more information, contact CSSCA at (250) 652-4611