Submitted by Kerry Kelly –
Forty years ago, Hintonburg was a very different place (though a Trudeau was still the Prime Minister). There were no Starbucks, a lot more payphones, and an acknowledgement that the neighbourhood needed to come together to support seniors who were finding it hard to stay autonomous in their own homes. And so, the Senior Citizen Support Program started its journey to becoming Ottawa West Community Support (OWCS).
OWCS was a labour of love, opened in 1977 by a coalition of Christian churches in the west end of Ottawa motivated to provide practical services to all elderly persons in need, regardless of race, colour or creed. What began with a call from an elderly gentleman who asked for help after a heavy windstorm, expanded to serve seniors and persons with physical disabilities in almost all aspects of their daily lives through the generous support of a variety of donors and funders, including the Ministry of Health and the City of Ottawa as well as the founding churches in our community.
Today, seniors in Ottawa’s west end can take advantage of a wide variety of programs and services including Aging in Place & Assisted Living Programming, Respite Care, Adult Day Services, Transportation, and a robust social program offering musical entertainment and culinary delights served up each week at the Friday Luncheon program.
Overseen by a board of directors representing area churches, OWCS is lovingly run by a dedicated staff and a committed group of volunteers who share their time and talents offering everything from friendly visits to isolated seniors, rides to appointments, and even a song or two to get the dancing started. Why do people become involved with OWCS? The answers are as varied and unique as the place itself. Lorraine, an OWCS client, puts it this way: “As the time for surgery came closer, I found myself turning to OWCS for help. I cannot count the number of times since 2014 that OWCS has helped me with transport to medical appointments all over Ottawa. To this day I continue to ask for and receive caring support to get to and from my medical appointments. As I usually feel unwell after these appointments, it is most reassuring to know that a kind and friendly face is there for me. It is extremely hard to find adequate words to express the depth of gratitude I have toward each of these lovely people.”
“Any day entertaining at OWCS is my favourite day,” says volunteer Fred Pitz, who loves sharing the joy of music with his fans, even the four-legged ones. “I have good memories of the days that Roscoe (the dog) was present. As Ed and I were waiting to entertain, Roscoe would greet us and sit on his haunches. Then, when Ed and I were given a piece of cake or pie, he would come to both of us looking for a treat. We obliged, against the will of his overseers, but he was very happy with us!”
For the most part though, the reason is the seniors themselves and the satisfaction of being able to serve their fellow community members in such meaningful ways.
“In my time, I’ve watched our organization blossom from an office staff of eight to over 30 and participated in the creation of new programs like Aging in Place and the immense expansion of In Home Services,” says Amy Bevilacqua, Senior Manager, Community Programs. “This sector continues to evolve, but the vision of providing practical support through creative community-based support remains. I have learned so much from clients, shared life moments with wonderful volunteers and co-workers all who truly believe in the mission/vision of OWCS and are committed to supporting clients and the community.”
To find our more about OWCS, its vision, programming and services please visit owcs.ca.
Kerry Kelly is a OWCS volunteer.