In 2009, Lynn Arnott and Lois Abraham recognized the need for a seniors’ centre in the south end of town, and so the saga began. They went to the Manitoba Association for Seniors and started the ball rolling. Some six months and a few meetings later committees were formed and an interim executive was elected for a seniors group called Fort Garry Centre for Active Living.
In December 2009, the newly formed group held its first social event – a potluck lunch which was considered a huge success, with an attendance of approximately 50 people. The first program of the Fort Garry Centre for Active Living was a drop-in program where table top games were played and light refreshments served. This was just the beginning!
The second program was the soon-dubbed, Still Bloomin’ Gardening Club, with conveners Dorothy Lachance and Lois Abraham. To this day Still Bloomin’ meets monthly, with an attendance of about 30 people and very popular guest speakers.
In 2010, Fort Garry Centre for Active Living was incorporated as Pembina Active Living (55+), affectionately known as PAL. In the same year, PAL organized its first Forum for Living Well, entitled “Passport to Healthy Aging”. It was held at the Canad Inns and was attended by about 200 people.
Later, in 2012, Dave Gaudreau (then MLA for St. Norbert) presented a private member’s statement introducing PAL in the legislative assembly, and formalized it with the presentation of a plaque. That same year, PAL obtained charitable status from the federal government. This is considered a big step towards distinguishing PAL as a legitimate organization that is stable and worthy of grant monies and donations. PAL achieved this milestone in the spring of 2014, only five years after its inception.
PAL has received recognition for its work in the form of many grants, including those from the Assiniboine Credit Union, United Way, New Horizons for Seniors, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Manitoba Community Services Council, Canada Summer Jobs and Manitoba Association of Senior Centres.
With membership and programs ever expanding, more space was required and PAL moved to Grace Christian Church in 2012. With space an ever increasing problem we have gone into the community, providing programs at Richmond King, St. Norbert, Fort Garry and Lindenwoods community centres. Our clubs congregate at many community places including Smitty’s in Fort Richmond, Dakota Lanes, Southside Golf, Grant Park Cinema 8, and various parks, venues and restaurants throughout the city.
Getting the word out is important. In 2013, with a steep learning curve and much sweat equity, PAL launched it’s website at Pal55plus.ca. Our newsletter goes out to over 870 seniors by email and to 117 groups for further distribution. Pamphlets are distributed at events and blanket the community.
Articles are submitted to The Spirit and Lifestyles 55 and announcements to the Winnipeg Free Press, and The Sou’wester routinely reports on PAL events. We have run a campaign and developed a community partnership with CJNU 93.7 (a radio station geared to seniors). PAL ensures we have a presence at senior’s events and does a program demonstration at the Red River Exhibition. But nothing is better at getting the word out than our vibrant PAL members, themselves.
Currently PAL desperately needs a home of its own. That will be the next big milestone. PAL was a vision by two people, but it ignited the passion of many to create the current exciting and viable seniors organization, Pembina Active Living (55+).
PAL is blessed to have Alanna Jones as our longstanding executive director and a healthy board of 14 committed seniors to shepherd this organization into the future and ensure it remains a vibrant pillar of the community to serve seniors for many generations.
Johanna Denesiuk has been a PAL board member since 2010.