Over 100 people attended The Friendship Centre’s 40th anniversary celebratory lunch on Friday, Feb. 21. It was an afternoon of fond memories and of looking ahead to the future.
Some of those attending were active members, partaking in multiple functions every week. Others were reconnecting after slowing down following years of participation.
Around the peripherals of the hall were booths stacked high with scrapbooks chronicling activities both past and present. Demonstrations of the various activities that happen at the centre, from Zumba to carpet bowling to pickleball, happened throughout the afternoon.
Recreation manager Stephanie Ische greeted the crowd gathered at the Pyramid Recreation Centre.
“Today marks an important occasion for the Friendship Centre and the pivotal role it has played in this community,” she said. “When the Friendship Centre was established 40 years ago the mission of the centre was the same it is today: To create a place for people to gather, socialize, make friends, and be part of their community.”
Councillor Bill Osborne brought greeting on behalf of the mayor and Council, saying the centre is “truly a jewel in the crown of St. Marys. You should be very proud of your accomplishments.”
The Stonetown Entertainers were then scheduled to sing; unfortunately, icy inclement weather had storm-stayed a number of their members, including the choir’s director. Instead, pianist Anna Stephens and guitarist/singer Daisy Anderson played as a duo, providing live music between speeches and demonstrations.
George and Norma Holroyd are two longtime Friendship Centre members who were enjoying lunch that day. George estimates they’ve been a part of the organization for 35 years, “since down at the old Friendship Centre.” They’ve been deeply involved in a number of initiatives throughout the years, including shuffleboard leagues and various barbecues.
“We just like to be involved in the life of the community,” says Norma.
“And to keep busy,” adds George. “If our memory was better we’d fill you in more. I don’t suppose they’d do a program about that? Memory improvement?” he joked.
Approaching 87 years of age in March, Mary Eybergen was one of the most senior members in attendance that day.
“You name it, I did it,” she says of her involvement at the centre. Moving to St. Marys in 1963, she joined at the age of 37.
“I did 10 years of tai chi!” she notes proudly.
Thelma Chambers and Vi Corbett are two members of the Stonetown Entertainers who were able to make it to the event, but were happy to sit back and listen to their fellow bandmates play. In addition to the choir, Thelma also runs a free income tax clinic through the centre for people with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes.
“It keeps my mind occupied and sharp,” she says. “That’s important when you’re a senior.”
Included as centrepieces at each table were fishbowls filled with coloured slips of paper. Each slip had a question written on it regarding people’s experiences at the Friendship Centre. Attendees were asked to fill out the slips of paper, providing a collection of memories looking back over 40 years of history. Some of the entries provided were as follows:
• Meeting all my friends at lunch after choir and coffee breaks
• Making new friends and getting involved in some of the scrapbooking and card making
• Good meals and good friends
• I belonged to the Dandy Dancers and loved it! Too sad to get older so you can’t move so fast
• Making and serving lunch as part of the CWL and my first days of yoga
• My first memory is of the Friendship Centre on Park Street. Nothing worked! Hydro and furnace…
• Bringing our great-granddaughter and her dancing with everyone
• I was invited to come with a friend and I went birding with a group from the centre.