VANCOUVER The march of time being what it is, seniors fighting for any project that takes time are bound to have their ranks thinned along the way. Those who start the battle are sometimes no longer there when the job is done.
So it is with the long, impassioned and still unfinished struggle for a Seniors Centre in pensioner-heavy, southeast Vancouver.
John Pawluk, longtime president of the Killarney Seniors Association, died last year, and who knows how many other seniors have "fallen off the perch," as one puts it, in a campaign that has already lasted an unconscionable 15 years.
Watching those years slip by, while the tide of government funding commitments mostly ebbed, Lorna Gibbs began to think she, too, would not live out the drive. In 2011, she told me: "I expect, if we ever do get our seniors' centre, they will carry my ashes over the threshold."
Gibbs, a tireless mix of dedication and feistiness, has been in the saga's forefront since the beginning, somehow managing to stay above the political bickering and buck-passing shenanigans below.
"I can't afford to aggravate anybody, because the project would suffer," she says.
Now, at last, the perennial president of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre Society believes that a venture seemingly promised more often than the Evergreen Line may actually get built.
"It looks like it's coming through," says Gibbs, daring herself to hope for perhaps the first time.
Following another unseemly bout of petty politicking, there's been a surprising, recent avalanche of cold cash. From the feds: $2.5 million. From the city, already in for land and $2.5 million: another $1.2 million. Toss in the lesser $1.3 million offered by the province just before last year's election, and suddenly, the Killarney Seniors Centre has $7.5 million in the pot. That's just about enough for a 'go.' Councillor Raymond Louie, a long-time backer of the centre, says he expects shovels in the ground by next spring.
The fact it has taken so long to get there is shameful.
An estimated one-third of all city seniors live in southeast Vancouver. Yet they remain without a centre of their own, despite numerous such facilities on the west side.
"I wasn't a senior when we started this," says Gibbs, with a hearty laugh, taking care to point out she has hardly been alone in the arduous campaign.
But Gibbs has been the quest's public face. When MP Wai Young announced her government's $2.5 million contribution, seniors bussed in for the event were properly appreciative. When Lorna Gibbs took to the podium, however, they rose to their feet in a standing ovation. They knew who their hero was.
© Copyright Metro News