BY VOICE STAFF
Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff arrived at the community centre last Wednesday morning with his pockets figuratively filled with cash. With scant advance notice, his office alerted the media and the Town of Pelham that he would make a funding announcement related to seniors.
Mayor Marvin Junkin introduced Oosterhoff to a crowd of 20 or so onlookers in the canteen seating area, upstairs next to the walking track, where the assembled group drew the momentary attention of walkers as they passed, peeping curiously through the plate glass windows. Councillors Wink, Hildebrandt, and Stewart were also present.
The province is allocating $14.1 million dollars to some 300 Seniors Active Living Centres. According to a statement released by Oosterhoff’s office, such programs support some 100,000 seniors across the province, and this funding “will provide a variety of programming and activities to help seniors stay active, socially engaged, safe, and healthy.”
The bottom line for Niagara: $147,481.
The Towns of Pelham and Grimsby will receive $52,727 each in funding for 2019-2020, while the Town of Lincoln will receive $42,027.
“This funding will go a long way in helping seniors in Niagara stay active and socially connected, while also preventing social isolation,” said Oosterhoff, reading from prepared remarks.
The senior population in Ontario is the fastest growing age group. By 2023, there will be three million Ontarians over the age of 65, or about 20% of the population.
“We are an ‘aging’ community, and any assistance for Seniors programs is very much welcomed and appreciated,” said Councillor Marianne Stewart. “It always feels like it’s a ‘gift’ to be grateful for, even though it’s taxpayer money just stored in a different pocket.”
Councillor Mike Ciolfi was also appreciative.
“This funding and other sources like it will be beneficial to allow the active seniors program in Pelham to purchase equipment, maintain and initiate new programs, services and seminars to encourage active engagement and healthy lifestyles for seniors in our community.”
Councillor Ron Kore acknowledged Oosterhoff, saying, “I know Sam Oosterhoff works hard for our community. The money will be used wisely to achieve maximum benefits for the seniors in our community.”
Mayor Junkin was pleased.
“The $52,000 grant that was personally presented to the Town by our MPP,” Junkin said, “is to be used to facilitate seniors’ programming provided by the Town. Portions of it will go to programmer’s wages, and supplies for the Seniors Active Living Centre, located on the second floor of the MCC.”
After some audience members took the opportunity to speak with Oosterhoff following his remarks, and help themselves to the spread of brunch snacks laid out on the canteen counter, Active Living Committee members Sharon Cook and Del Laney took the MPP on a quick tour of Pelham’s own new Seniors Active Living Centre, ending up before a banner for photos.
Moving west into a large multifunction room, they were joined by Town Treasurer Teresa Quinlin, and Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness, Vickie vanRavenswaay. The conversation turned toward libraries, specifically how to run them more efficiently, a current Town Council quest. Quinlin pointed through the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, overlooking the view toward Highway 20, and indicated the location for the proposed new Fonthill library branch—to be built as an addition to the community centre, with the funding assistance of a Federal Cultural Grant the Town has applied for.
Announcement and photo-ops concluded, Oosterhoff and Mayor Junkin moved on to their next stop in the same building, a round-table discussion among some Niagara mayors and staff on identifying continued opportunities for cost savings through sharing expenses and resources across municipalities. The meeting was not open to the press, according to Oosterhoff.