Winnipeg federation rescues seniors centre
WINNIPEG — The Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, a Jewish seniors centre in north Winnipeg and the only Orthodox Union-certified caterer and provider of kosher meals on wheels in Winnipeg, has been given a temporary new lease on life, thanks to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.
After several months of negotiations, federation has arrived at a deal with the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada (NCJW) – which owns the Gwen Secter building – to provide the Winnipeg centre with $2,000 a month in funding for at least two years. The funding is retroactive to last January.
Under the terms of the agreement, NCJW has extended Gwen Secter’s current lease to May 31, 2016. The lease was scheduled to expire as of May 31, 2014. National Council agrees not to sell the building with possession date prior to May 31, 2014, without Gwen Secter’s consent. The NCJW may sell the building with a possession date following May 31, 2014, with six months’ prior notice to Gwen Sector, and the centre has the first right of refusal.
The agreement is the end phase of a relationship between the NCJW and the Gwen Secter Centre and its predecessor, the Golden Age Club, that goes back 63 years. In 1949, NCJWC, Winnipeg section, started the Golden Age Club, Canada’s first senior’s drop-in centre. Twenty-five years ago, NCJW purchased the property at 1588 Main St., and the Golden Age Club became the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre at that address. (The centre was named after the late Gwen Secter, a NCJW leader in Winnipeg.)
Gwen Secter is a multi-purpose senior centre that promotes the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being of older adults, said Marilyn Regiec, the centre’s executive director. The main goal of the centre is to foster independent living and participation in community life through social, educational, cultural, fitness, healthy lifestyle and recreational programming, including book clubs, community Internet access, cultural programming, kosher meals on wheels, fitness classes and bingo.
The building also houses the offices of NCJW, Winnipeg section, and Jewish Child and Family Services’ north Winnipeg office.
Up until about five years ago, the National Council paid for all of the building’s operating costs. In 2009 though, the Winnipeg chapter of NCJW experienced a serious funding shortfall and could no longer support the seniors program. The Gwen Secter centre took on the responsibility for the building’s operating costs through a combination of contributions from its 300 or so members, government grants and financial support from the federation. A four-year lease agreement to that effect, between the seniors program and NCJW, was signed as of May 31, 2010.
According to a joint press release by the parties involved in the new agreement, “it is NCJW’s intention to sell the building at 1588 Main St. and to use the sales proceeds to fund its ‘next big project.’ The NCJW board has commenced its strategic planning process and is excited at the prospect of being able to contribute to the community in a new way and to tackle a different area of perceived need.”
The Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre board of directors, Regiec said, “is working with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg regarding the needs and provision of community services to Jewish older adults and suitable placement of same. The future of the Gwen Secter program forms part of these discussions.
“We are all looking forward to a bright future of contributing to the vibrancy of Jewish community life in Winnipeg,” she said.