When the Killarney Seniors Centre opened last June, a politician-heavy ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the occasion.
That ceremony was attended by hundreds of members of the community, speeches were made and backs were slapped.
It was a very different atmosphere July 4, 2019, when a much smaller group of seniors gathered at the centre to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening as well as the contributions of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors Arts and Culture Centre Society — the true driving force behind the completion of the long-awaited facility.
Darren Peterson, the park board’s manager of recreation for Vancouver’s East Side, gave a few words before presenting a plaque recognizing the extraordinary efforts of the society and, in particular, the work of George Grant, Lorna Gibbs, Joan Wright, Bert Messiah and Keith Jacobson, who unfortunately died in June 2016 before ground broke on the project just seven months later.
Due to ailing health, Bert Messiah was represented at the ceremony by his wife Barbara Messiah, while Wright was unable to attend.
Gibbs, standing at a table in front of a shelf sporting a portrait of Jacobson, told the group there is no plaque large enough to thank all of the people involved in making the centre a reality after almost 20 years.
“I have learned something from every one of you here,” said Gibbs, noting Jacobson was a huge part of the society’s success in getting the seniors centre built. “And there isn’t one person here who didn’t bring benefit to our group. I can’t believe your loyalty and support.”
Grant said the completion of the centre means a lot to the community.
“Just look at the success of the lunch program to see what it means to the community,” said Grant. “The increase in population alone, never mind the seniors, would justify an addition to this community centre, as well as at Champlain Heights.”
The 10,000 square-foot, LEED Gold certified centre is attached to the existing Killarney Community Centre and provides a dedicated space for seniors programs. It includes five multi-purpose rooms, a roof-top patio, lounge with fireplace and TV, and commercial kitchen. The centre also includes several accessibility features, including an elevator, hearing loops, auto door openers in the washrooms and distress buttons.
Coming in at $7.5 million, funding the centre was a joint effort with money coming from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the City of Vancouver. The Vancouver Park Board provided the land and key support came from the Southeast Vancouver Seniors Arts and Culture Centre Society.
As reported in the Courier at the time of the opening last June, Ainslie Kwan, chair of the Killarney Seniors Centre Building committee acknowledged Jacobson’s determination to see the centre built.
“Keith started this process and I made a commitment to Keith that I would… see it through,” Kwan told the Courier at the time. “He was really the driving force behind bringing this centre to south east Vancouver. He, along with Lorna, have worked tirelessly and he really had his finger on the pulse of what seniors in this area needed and this is a true legacy to him.”
Gibbs had some final words of thanks to share with the group gathered last week for the ceremony, organized by Donna Davies.
“Every one of you is serving your communities in unique ways,” said Gibbs, who also personally thanked the centre’s recreation supervisor Debbie Barber for all of her support and efforts over the years. “You all do such great work and you don’t get paid, so what do you get out of it? You get a better community, and we all get a better world. Thank you very much for all you do.”