VANCOUVER Standing near the back of the gymnasium at Killarney Community Centre Monday afternoon, senior Marian Hartley told the Courier the day's ceremony was long overdue.
Hartley was one of dozens of seniors gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new dedicated seniors centre, scheduled to be completed in early 2018 at a cost of $7.5 million. Seniors in the neighbourhood have been pushing city hall and the park board to build a seniors centre in the community for more than 20 years.
"I've got to say it's been a long time coming," said Hartley, who's lived in the neighbourhood for 38 years her parents moved to Killarney 60 years ago.
Opening the ceremony was federal Minister of Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan, also a longtime resident of the neighbourhood.
"Public infrastructure connects people, creates healthy communities and long-term prosperity for Canadians," said Sajjan on behalf of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi. "We are proud to be supporting the development of the Killarney Seniors Centre to bring these vital services to seniors in southeast Vancouver. I look forward to seeing this facility completed and enjoyed by many."
The 10,000-square-foot centre will offer instructor-led and drop-in recreation activities, hot lunches, off-site excursions and outings, special events and numerous support services, including educational and development programs.
Because it took so long for the seniors centre to actually move forward, many past and present politicians were on hand for the ceremony, including acting-mayor Raymond Louie, park board vice-chair Erin Shum, park board commissioners Stuart Mackinnon, John Coupar and Sarah Kirby-Yung, city councillors Melissa De Genova and George Affleck, former park board commissioners Allan De Genova and Aaron Jasper, as well as Wai Young, former MP for Vancouver South.
Suzanne Anton, MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview, noted the seniors centre has been on her radar for years, first as a park board commissioner in 2002, then as a city councillor in 2005, and finally as member of the provincial government.
"It is a thrill to be here today at the milestone ground breaking for the new Killarney Seniors Centre at Killarney Park," Anton told the crowd. "It is a tribute to those in the neighbourhood who have worked so hard to bring us to this milestone, led by Lorna Gibbs and the Southeast Vancouver Seniors' Arts and Cultural Society."
Gibbs, a longtime community and seniors advocate, was in attendance at the ceremony, but kept to her seat with the exception of standing to be recognized during the speeches. Gibbs worked tirelessly alongside members of the society and, in particular, Keith Jacobson, who unfortunately passed away in June 2016, without seeing the centre become a reality.
Hartley also credited Jacobson for helping push the centre to this stage.
"There's been a lot of politics involved, but much of the credit really does need to go to Keith," said Hartley, a member of the Seniors Hub Council at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House. "He was a real community activist."
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