Gordon Howard was the driving force behind a thriving senior’s centre in Selkirk. In the latter years of his life, Gordon focused his energy towards improving the quality of life of senior citizens. His philosophy was that “senior citizens should not conform to the stereotypical image of being old, worn out, and useless that western society tends to impose on them.” As a long-time member of the Senior Citizens Club in Selkirk he worked hard towards his goal. He organized weekly activities, trips, and special events, and gave numerous speeches to local organizations for help in establishing a drop-in centre for seniors. He advocated that senior citizens should have a valid place in society, and a much fuller and richer lifestyle.
During his lifetime, Gordon Howard belonged to the Rotary Club and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. These connections would later donate to the Gordon Howard Senior Centre even after Gordon had passed, which marked strong community connection and support.
Making Space for Seniors
Gordon Howard and a few other like-minded individuals established the Selkirk and District Seniors Club in the late 1970s. The group met once a week in Notre Dame Roman Catholic Church basement, but soon the stairs became inaccessible for members, so the group moved their meetings to Christ Church Parish Hall. After a little while, when the club had grown too large for the Parish Hall, they moved again, this time to Memorial Hall.
At the end of 1979, the Rotary Club donated a building on the corner of Vaughan Avenue and Jemima Bay. The Rotarians canvased the community for donations to support the project. At this point, Rotary members and several seniors formed a committee to oversee the project’s development. By 1980, the Selkirk and District Seniors Club established the Gordon Howard Senior Centre. Unfortunately, Gordon Howard passed away the previous summer, too soon to see the project completed.
The Centre provided programs, services, and information on a wide variety of topics such as education, recreation, leadership, health, and supportive services. Members participated in field trips to Winnipeg and other destinations around Manitoba, via a bus named “Blue Bird.” The bus marked the second donation from the Rotary Club and allowed seniors to have out of town outings, socialize, and experience the world around them.
The Centre continued to be popular, with membership growing steadily. In 1983, the space on Vaughan Avenue and Jemima Bay became inadequate, so an addition was constructed. In 1985, an Outreach Coordinator was hired to handle programs designed to assist seniors in maintaining their independent living. Later in 1988, a third staff member was hired to assist the director with programs and centre functions.
A New Facility
By 1991, the organization needed a new, larger space to accommodate the increase in programs, activities, and members. A Loan Certificate program, members, and the community provided the much-needed funds. The Lions Club of Selkirk, the Rotary Club, and the Odd Fellows also contributed to the cost. With these funds, the Selkirk and District Seniors Club purchased the present building on Eveline Street renovated and opened it in 1992.
From then on programs and activities evolved to include fitness classes, dancing, cribbage, woodcarving, quilting, Tai Chi, fashion shows, Baron of Beef Dinners, Perogy Bees, birthday parties, lunches, and large events such as the Manitoba Society of Seniors games in 2001. Most recently the Gordon Howard Senior Centre hosted the Manitoba 55+ Games in 2022. Support services offered are the Lifeline, established by past president, Joe Watson in 1990, Meals on Wheels, Handi Helper, a driver escort program, and others.
A Legacy to Last
Gordon Howard came to be synonymous with the health and recreation of seniors and retirees in the area. The work of the committee, volunteers, and many others allowed his vision of keeping retirees active in the community certainly came to be. The Gordon Howard Senior Centre continues to provide senior citizens with the much-needed services, activities, and programs that allow them to live life independently – something which is life changing.