The Sooke Senior Drop In Centre needs both volunteers and members

Seniors Drop In Centre faces unknown future

Centre needs more members and volunteers and a new place to call home

For seniors, the Sooke Community Hall, which serves as the Seniors Drop In Centre, isn’t just a place to gather and socialize, it’s a lifeline — and one that is just breaths away from flatlining.

The number of volunteers and members is one of several issues to be discussed at the organization’s annual general meeting Dec. 3, which includes the ongoing search for a treasurer and vice president, positions that haven’t been filled in years.

Dec. 10 will mark the last day of operation for the drop-in centre, as well as the last day of bingo for 2015.

But as the centre is set to re-open its doors on Jan. 12, its future is uncertain, particularly if Carol Pinalski, the organization’s president, has to fill her role again next year.

“I’m getting to the end of my tether,” laughed Pinalski, who hasn’t been relieved of her position for the last eight years because there simply was no one around to do it.

“I’ve worked so hard to try and get a place for us. I’d just hate to give it up, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

In recent memory, the seniors drop in centre started off at the corner of Otter Point and Sooke road (where Academy Dental is located now) – there, the building was fully-independent, close to the town core, and open to anybody over 55 to drop in for coffee, or a bite to eat, or to simply visit and socialize.

The organization had almost 300 members, but after it had to move, Pinalski said it just went “downhill” from there.

“We had no place to go. Firefighters let us use their lounge, but eventually they needed their lounge back, so now we’re at the community hall,” she said, adding that even on itself was, and is, a challenge.

“We’re non-profit, so we don’t make any money … we can’t afford to be paying $2,000 a month for rent.”

The drop-in centre has been at the community all for the last two years.

While sharing a facility with another entity in the community was always an acceptable avenue, the community hall isn’t ideal for folks in their 70s and 80s to navigate.

Acting mayor Kevin Pearson said there are a number of groups and a local government that are working towards a one-shot solution, albeit not without its own series of financial challenges.

“There’s opportunity there for a total refurbishment or have another facility built, but in the end, it’s an economical question,” he said.

“Without assistance from outside of the community, it’s a tough goal for us to come up with the funding.”

A process of some kind is already underway on exploring options for a better facility to serve as the Seniors Drop In Centre, but that process still remains under a pile of paperwork and careful planning.

“We don’t want to make a hasty decision, we want to look at the longevity of a project, because this is one that will carry us through many generations going down the road. Do it once, do it well,” Pearson said.