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A few new faces at Churchill Seniors Centre in Westboro

 By Judith van Berkom – 

At the end of March 2018, Janice (Jan) Davis retired as Recreation Supervisor at the Churchill Seniors Centre on Richmond Road but you will still see her around as she puts her retirement shoes on and participates in the programs she helped create – mindfulness drop in on Wednesday mornings, followed by drop-in ukulele, to name two.

Caroline McGarrity, Janice Davis, and Anita Findlay. Photo by Judith van Berkom.

Over the years, Jan collected newspaper clippings and information about the history of the Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre – one of four City of Ottawa recreational centres specializing in seniors 50-years-of-age and older – and one of her retirement projects will be writing the history of the centre, part of which dates back to 1896, as the Township of Nepean’s Town Hall and former Fire Hall.

Jan highlights what became important to her over the years: “What really stands out for me beyond the special events, the activities, the years working at the Churchill Seniors Centre, and what I’ll most take away with me are the incredibly special people I’ve met and shared time with – the clients, the friends, the staff – that made up my everyday – people who give so much to our community in so many different ways. The memories of the people and their sharing of life stories are my most favourite take away from working. I have learned so much from this wonderful Churchill community. To which I say simply – thank you.”

Jan’s are big shoes to fill, but as Caroline McGarrity replaces her as Recreation Coordinator, she brings with her 31 years of experience in the field of recreation. This is her first time working in a non-aquatic facility. She’s excited to be working in a smaller facility and specializes in organizing special events. Caroline envisions the centre offering day trips to seniors, more drop-in activities in the day or evening, and access to the fitness centre on a drop-in basis. Her vision includes reaching out to the community more, working collaboratively with other centres in the area, and expanding the hours the centre is open to include early evening programs. An avid knitter, she can see the centre offering workshops on Saturdays.

Anita Findlay is Churchill Seniors Centre’s Programme Coordinator, having started in mid-February, overlapping with Jan’s final month of work in March. Her vision also is to open up the centre in the evenings and offer programs to people who work, in part to expand the community’s awareness of the existence of the centre, but also to make better use of the facility.

At one point she was teaching 19 classes a week, travelling to and from five different centres in the city.

In the last eight years, Anita gave up her teaching and became a full-time coordinator. Her new position with Churchill Seniors Centre provides a balance, making connections with people while coordinating various programs, such as the Heart Wise programs offered in collaboration with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

“I taught older adults – now this centre is specific to this clientele only. I see people who are a little more frail. We have an integrated program here for post-stroke, dementia or heart disease – those needing assistance,” Anita explains. “It’s unusual to be providing this level of care. We want to keep people independent as long as possible. The health-care industry can’t do it all. They need the city to partner with them.”

Anita and Caroline carry on the tradition established by their forerunners, adding their own passions and vision to the process. We wish them all the best and look forward to what they will bring to Churchill Seniors Recreational Centre in the future.