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The Vancouver Courier
Friday, February 4, 2011
By Sandra Thomas

Council coughs up $2.5 million for seniors centre

When reached by cellphone Tuesday afternoon, seniors activist Lorna Gibbs was "walking on air."

For years Gibbs has lobbied all levels of government to have a seniors centre build in Southeast Vancouver. At first she was a concerned citizen and later she became part of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors' Arts and Culture Society, formed in 2007. On Tuesday morning council voted to dedicate $2.5 million towards the project as part of the city's $337 million 2011 capital budget. "I've been working on this more than full time," said Gibbs. "And I've had such wonderful support from the team."

In 2001, the city earmarked money for a seniors centre in Southeast Vancouver, but the money was diverted to complete the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House when provincial partnership funding for the project didn't materialize in time. Gibbs and others have been fighting to get that funding reinstated ever since. In 2009 the park board dedicated land at the Killarney Community Centre for the project.

Gibbs said politicians from other levels of government, including Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview Kash Heed, had promised to help fund the centre once the city got on board. "Thank God for Raymond Louie," Gibbs said of the Vision Vancouver councillor who's taken the lead on the seniors centre for a number of years.

The decision from the city means no more excuses, said Gibbs, who believes $2 million each from the provincial and federal governments would be enough to complete the proposed 10,000-square-foot seniors centre. Research from 2006 shows the southeast corner of the city is home to almost 25,000 seniors over the age of 65, not including residents 55 and older.

Louie told the Courier the decision to commit the money was a collective effort for a worthwhile project. He said it's unfortunate these seniors had to wait so long for more funding. "So this is a good first step," he said.

Like Gibbs, Louie is now looking to Heed to keep his promise. "He said he wanted the city to come on board first and we have," said Louie.

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Raj Hundal brought the successful motion to the park board in 2009 by allocating land for the project. "And that motion is still valid. It's about time someone finally stepped up," he said of city council's vote.

© Vancouver Courier

Last modified: February 15, 2011
Created: February 14, 2011
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