Among the many programs, services, and events that take place at our Centre, this year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary!
In 1977 an armful of craft materials was brought into the office of the Ecumenical Action group at Chalmers’s United Church by a senior church member, Mrs. Wyn Whuly. This lead to the creation of “The Mustard Seed’s Seniors Craft Group”. In November of that year they held their first meeting in Hemlock Hall. A year later this group of women had grown to sixty members strong. This group still meets today!
From this “seed” grew the awareness that there was a real need for more services for seniors in the neighbouring areas around the Church.
Thus, in 1979 a group of seniors living in the South Granville community, undertook the project to create and develop a Seniors Program and Drop In Centre on the ground level of Chalmers United Church at 1420 West 12th.
When Chalmers Presbyterian Church opened in 1912 one of the first swimming pools in Vancouver was located on the lower floor. The pool closed in the 1940’s, however, and in 1980 the former change rooms were renovated with the help of funds from individuals, from the Federal Government (New Horizon Seniors Grant) and from Chalmers United Church. This area became the first home of our Seniors Centre which expanded again in 1983 with an additional grant, and became incorporated as the South Granville Friendship Society under the BC Society Act, and registered as a charity under the Federal Income Tax Act.
In 1992 the church was sold to Holy Trinity Anglican Church and faced some major renovations. The church invited the seniors group to come back after the 3 million dollar upgrade completion, but it also meant that the Centre had to move out of its premises for two years while construction went on, which proved to be a challenging time for all involved. The Centre moved into a cramped space at Broadway and Hemlock at the cost of $3,000 a month. In addition, it needed to raise $150,000 for its portion of the renovation in just a few months.
It is amazing how the members of the Centre rallied around to pull through, with the help of the community. “We just want to go home,” read a banner held up during a fundraising march.
In 1994 the seniors got their wish and moved back into the new facilities after having raised $185,000. Somebody called it “The little Centre that could and did.” It was, however, bittersweet. The promised space had to be shared with the Pacific Theatre which was not part of the original plan. Holy Trinity Church had run out of money while completing the renovations, so the Centre ended up with less space than anticipated, and one day after the Centre had moved back into its home, thieves took the opportunity of breaking into the newly renovated space and stealing all the furniture.
Another challenge has now arisen, for at the end of 2015, the SGSC learned that its current site is scheduled for redevelopment and the Centre will need to be relocated. Timelines and a new site have not yet been determined, but we are optimistic that we will be able to have a new space in the near future. Cornerstone Planning Group was contracted in 2016 to develop a High-Level Functional Program to describe these needs and was submitted to the City of Vancouver. Over eight different focus groups were organized and members were asked to contribute their thoughts and ideas about a new location. The results of this study will be used as a basis for space requirements for the centre during the design phase.
To this day, the Centre has been true to its mission to provide programs and services to promote healthy and independent lifestyles for seniors in the South Granville and Fairview Districts and surrounding communities.
The Centre was formed as a friendship center for seniors, where they could get together to meet and socialize with others. It has kept its trademark: An Open Door Policy. Everyone coming through its doors is welcomed, cherished, and met with a smile.