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Seniors' society celebrates 20 years

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 15, 2012

Lunch with a Bunch began with about 10 people 20 years ago. Now, close to 100 seniors attend the Friday noon event.

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Kathryn Youngblut cuts the Yk Seniors' Society 20th anniversary cake - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

Seniors are able to take part in tai chi, yoga, Scottish dancing, and other activities - and it's all thanks to the Yellowknife Seniors' Society's growth and how its directors listen to what the seniors in Yellowknife want, and deliver it.

The Yellowknife Seniors' Society (YKSS) turned 20 this year with a thriving membership of about 470. About 20 people gathered at the Baker Centre on Wednesday afternoon to officially celebrate with cake, refreshments and storytelling.

Board secretary Kathryn Youngblut opened the event, telling her story of how she came to Yellowknife on her own in 1986 and joined the society about 12 years ago because "it looked like it had interesting programs."

She said she's watched the society expand a lot of its programs and start new events for the membership to enjoy. One of her favourite events was a high tea the society put on a few years ago.

"We got all dressed up as if we were going to a fancy tea with the Queen," she said.

"I think my best friends I've met at the seniors' society. I've had friends since we've joined and I always welcome new ones and it's always fun to see the different people and to talk to different people."

The society started as a way to organize social gatherings, said Vivian Squires, executive director of the society. The Baker Centre wasn't built yet, so the society would meet at the Elks Lodge or in church basements for games of Scrabble or bridge.

Ed Baker, a miner at Con Mine at the time and for whom the centre is named, came to the executive offices about 15 years ago and handed them a cheque for $100,000 and said "I want a seniors' centre built."

It was then up to the seniors to go out and get donations to raise money for the $900,000 building.

And the society does not take it for granted one bit. The building, which is now owned by Aven Manor, is constantly buzzing with activity.

"There's line dancing Friday nights. It's a ball," said Squires.

There's a bowling league, a bridge club. There is a walking program where seniors walk two miles per day, and there is a newly formed travel club where seniors can choose destinations together for a vacation.

"It's become more active. It used to be just social and now it's gone into programming and that's what it's all about. What do the seniors need now?" Squires said.

"It's just my life. I just love it. I just love serving the seniors."

The world moves faster than it did 20 years ago, and so does the organization of volunteers. Instead of expecting someone to give a five-hour block of their time, Squires said she has her "popcorn volunteers" who can pop in whenever they have half an hour or an hour to help out.

Every Wednesday this summer in celebration of the society's anniversary, two members will tell their stories.

Cito Domingo told his story this past Wednesday over cake and coffee in the bright front room of the Baker Centre. He came to Yellowknife in 1994 from the Philippines with his wife to help look after their granddaughter and said he was surprised to see the "camaraderie and togetherness" of the members of the society.

"I saw how the members showed their commitment and dedication and their sincerity," he told the group.

He took time to remember members who were responsible for building up the society to what it is today, such as Ed Jeske, Bishop John Sperry and Don Hunter.

"The members are so supportive and dedicated in the community. We are very proud," said Domingo.

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