Bingo is a great pastime for seniors, according to medical research. The game can boost cognitive abilities, enhance hand-eye coordination and increase socialization. But more than that, Bingo every Friday in the Trail Seniors Centre Branch, is just plain fun. Leda Creegan was one of a group of 20 playing the game in the Trail centre last week. Sheri Regnier photo

Trail seniors group seeking more members

Cooking and life skills program could be at risk without seniors’ support

Darlene McIsaac has taken many calls from housebound seniors not knowing where to find good company along with a tasty meal or two.

She’s always quick to reply because as a long-time member and current president of the Trail Senior Citizens Branch 47 – Darlene is in-the-know about the wonderful friendships and healthy activities the Trail association has to offer.

“I always encourage them to come down because a lot of people that phone me say they don’t know where to go,” she said. “One lady went around Trail for a month and asked people, but nobody knew, so we have to make sure they know where we are at.”

Located in the Greater Trail Community Centre (Selkirk College, Portland Street entrance) the seniors site hosts Bingo and Canasta throughout the summer. Fall through spring, affordable and nutritious lunches are available weekly from the Food Service Worker program, banquets and dances are held and of course, card games are dealt and Bingo continues.

However, McIsaac is concerned about dwindling membership in the 60-year old organization.

And the reason is two-fold.

First, she and her peers do not want seniors isolated in their homes when the Trail branch is abuzz with things to do, especially during the school year when hot meals are served in-house, pot-to-plate.

It’s the latter, food service from the seniors kitchen, that is particularly worrisome because the program could be at risk if membership continues to decline.

How it works, is the seniors branch rents its large space (includes dining hall, kitchen, cards and office area) from the facility’s owner, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

To help cover costs, the seniors rent their kitchen to Selkirk College. The college then uses the kitchen for its Food Service Worker Program, which teaches Life Skills as well as Vocational Skills in the Hospitality Industry for developmentally challenged adults (Adult Special Education).

In turn, to support the program, the senior membership buys lunches and hires the group to cater various events such as seasonal banquets.

It’s like an inclusive and well oiled machine, except a strong membership is needed.

“If we don’t get enough people out to support them, then we are going to go under,” McIsaac said. “That’s almost what happened three years ago and we had to fight to save it,” she added.

“And yes, this program is very important to us, everybody here just loves the kids … and if we didn’t have them (Selkirk College program) we probably wouldn’t even be here.”

Notably, the Trail branch belongs to the Senior Citizens Association of BC. That means they must run as a charitable institution (without profit to members) and strongly advocate for pensioners.

“A lot of us come down, even in the summer, and have lunch together here,” said McIsaac. “And we really have a good time especially at our dances … we even have people from Fruitvale, Salmo, Winlaw and Castlegar who have joined our dances … we really have fun.”

Another facet McIsaac mentioned, is the role senior members play in welcoming people who are new to Trail.

“We just got a lady from Hamilton two months ago, she likes to do things and joined right away,” McIsaac added. “I even got a call from Elliot Lake in northern Ontario, the man said he would be moving here with his wife and he would need help … so two months ago he came in here and said, ‘Hi, are you Darlene?’ … we are always looking for new members and we are here if they are just in town visiting family.”

Membership to the Trail association is $15 per year.

For more information, contact McIsaac at 250.364.0960.

The Greater Trail Community Centre was established in 1988. The building was the former home of the Trail Junior High School which closed in 1982 and remained vacant for three years. Since the building did not meet fire or other building code standards, it could not be used by the general public.

A study was undertaken by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary in 1985; and the following year, the building committee recommended a $3 million renovation project.

Today the site houses Selkirk College, the Seniors Centre, the VISAC Gallery, the Bailey Theatre and Muriel Griffiths Room, the Trail Gym Club and the Trail and District Arts Council.

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