When Nanaimo senior John Robinson's wife passed away and he subsequently had to sell his house this spring, he felt lost.
Fortunately, he was approached by Susan Jarvis, who invited him for lunch at the B.C. Old Age Pensioners hall in Nanaimo.
"I hadn't seen anybody in two or three weeks and I was just walking through the mall pretty down in the dumps," said Robinson. "Next thing I know she (approached) me and said 'come on down and have some lunch with us.'" Robinson quickly found a support system within Jarvis's group, and one member, 87-yearold widower Harvey Hodgins, even gave him a place to stay when he had nowhere else to turn.
According to Jarvis, it is this sense of community that the local B.C. Old Age Pensioners group, celebrating its 75th anniversary on Sept. 14, is all about. "It's our diamond anniversary so we're having a diamond dinner," Jarvis said.
"We've really gone over the top for decorating and everything, so it's a really special event for these people."
Jarvis said, while the provincial pensioners group has political roots and still fights for seniors' rights, the focus at her branch, the oldest in the province, is primarily social.
Jarvis, Robinson and Hodgins are at the hall almost everyday drinking coffee, playing games and taking part in potluck lunches, perogie dinners, and other activities with 60 or so other members.
Hodgins describes the hall as his second home, and says he has donated close to a million dollars to the organization in the past decade.
"(When I joined two years ago) I had just lost my wife. She had Alzheimer's for 10 years," Hodgins said. "It was like walking into heaven."
Robinson, a former painter and drywaller, has also contributed to the place by sprucing it up and making it more handicap accessible. Jarvis said the pensioners family continues to grow as people keep spreading the word.
In the fall, she plans to start drop-ins where people from the community can come see what the group is about.
In the meantime, people can join by filling out a form and paying $20 dues annually.
The 75th anniversary gala will take place at the hall on Sept. 14, where one lucky member will even take home a $500 gift certificate to a local jewelers to pick out their own diamond.
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