Edmonton seniors centre struggling post-pandemic

Seniors practice yoga at SEESA. Sarah Ryan / Global News

The South East Edmonton Seniors Association has issued a call for help in rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve essentially been closed to two years, so that has a huge impact on your ability to generate revenue,” said JudyLynn Archer, SEESA’s president.

“Normally, we have 1,600 plus members who join; they pay a membership fee. They join classes and there’s fees for that. We have rummage sales and, of course, a casino.”

Since none of those income sources was available because of coronavirus, the bills continued to pile up.

“Our operating costs right now are around the $130,000-a-year mark and that doesn’t include staff. That’s just to keep this building heated, lit and all of that,” Archer said.

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As is stands, SEESA is projecting a $30,000 deficit this year.

A memo to supporters reads: “The board projects SEESA’s funds will be depleted by September 2022.”

That’s the last thing exercise instructor Dave Heatley wants to see happen.

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“It’s a community. People can be themselves. You can exercise, you can join a club. I’m in the accidental drama club. We have fun, put on a show. There’s art classes, music classes, so much you can do.”

While the centre has re-opened, seniors just aren’t coming back as quickly as SEESA’s board had hoped.

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That’s evident at Heatley’s bootcamp class.

“Before the pandemic we had sometimes 40 people in here. Right now I’ve got about 13 or 14, and I think it’s going to pick up. I want it to pick up!”

Marilyn Wakaruk started coming to SEESA three years ago. She’s joined fitness and art classes, the book club and even doo-wop singing.

“There’s just a huge variety of things to do. The people are great, you make friends. The café is now open and we go for coffee afterwards,” she said.

“I love it. It’s really fun, it puts me in a great mood.”

Wakaruk said when the centre was closed, it was depressing.

“Eventually they did present some online classes, which I took part in, but there’s nothing like actually being here and feeling safe.”

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To turn things around, SEESA needs more volunteers, in particular for the board, to step forward at the annual general meeting on March 9.

Archer said while members need to be 55 or older, volunteers of all ages are always welcome.

SEESA is also hoping more seniors will come purchase memberships and register for classes.

“All this is starting up again, so we need people to come out. We want SEESA to keep going,” Heatley said.

Supporters can also purchase quilts, crafts and other handmade items at the centre, located at 9350 82 Street in Hollyrood.

Donations are also accepted through the SEESA website.


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