Seniors drop in centre closes doors

The centre shut down after nearly a decade of struggles with inadequate facilities and dwindling member numbers

After nearly a decade of struggles with inadequate facilities and dwindling number of members, the Sooke Seniors Drop In Centre is finally closings its doors.

The crunch came in the last three months after losing numerous volunteers due to illness, leaving remaining members overwhelmed, said Carol Pinalski, who took over as president after previous president, Jane Maude, stepped down just after a short period.

“There’s no backup, we’ve got nobody to take their place if they’re off… it’s very discouraging,” Pinalski said, adding that not everyone wants to play Bingo, and those that do aren’t enough to keep the momentum going.

“We get such few people on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that by the time we pay rent, I’m donating half the food that we use,” she said, adding herself and Irene Healey, the organization’s vice president, do all the cooking themselves.

At its AGM last week, Pinalski called for nominations for several positions, including a president, a vice-president, a secretary and five directors, but no one volunteered.

Pinalski blamed a large part of the centre’s rapid decline in past years on the lack of a proper facility with a modern kitchen and adequate space for activities other than bingo.

“I know two helpers who won’t work out of the hall, because they can’t walk up and down those stairs every time they want to get an item,” she said. “Everything we’ve got is scattered all over the basement, there is nothing in the kitchen.”

The Sooke Seniors Drop In Centre had its own facility with nearly 300 members up until 2010, when their building was sold. After that, the society operated out of the firefighters’ lounge at the Sooke Fire Hall, until they were moved to the community hall when the space was needed.

Since then, a suitable location in Sooke has been elusive, at best.

Mayor Maja Tait said discussions of a possible seniors centre opening up on the District’s proposed Wadams Way site for its new library are ongoing, but it’s premature to say if such a facility will even be possible at this location.

“I’m hoping that once things [with the library] get settled and in order, we can look at long-term solutions for seniors, as well as other community facilities,” she said, adding that while the district had a committee looking into the mater, its timing and process is still “painfully slow.”

Tait did acknowledge the need for such a facility in Sooke, and that the district puts $50,000 away every year for such things, but there’s still a long way to go before anything is solid.

“We are aware that we want to do something for the seniors, it’s just making it all work together,” she said. “You need a place with a good commercial kitchen, good access and good parking… there’s just not a lot of options, that’s the problem.”

In December last year, members were optimistic about a proposed standalone seniors centre at Ayre Manor, yet nothing has happened since.

Despite the series of challenges, Pinalski isn’t ready to give up just yet.

“They shoved us from teller to post for the last six years, and a shared facility (like the community hall) does not work for a drop-in centre. I won’t stop trying to get us a place,” she said.