The long-awaited and much-anticipated Ridgetown Adult Activity Centre is now operating out of its new location.
The original location was in downtown Ridgetown and has moved a few blocks away to Erie Street South. In November 2022, the organization held an Open House to welcome the community into the building after a few months of running programs at the new location.
Board members and volunteers attended the Open House to give tours and answer any questions, including board member Robert Clark and Executive Director Sharon Alliet.
A Bit of History
“The Adult Activity Centre has been in Ridgetown for about the past century on Main Street. That was a municipal building. It wasn’t very conducive to what we wanted to do with the Centre, so our President Bob Dye and his crew decided that we would build a new centre,” Robert explains.
The fundraising began about three years ago with an Information and Networking Night at the Ridgetown Legion, a place where the community could learn about the plans for the new building and how they could get involved or donate to the project.
“I started working here about eight years ago. They were talking about a new location even back then. It was always on the wish list,” says Sharon.
Bill Harrison donated the land on Erie Street South, which had previously been the location of a church.
“It was instrumental in even being able to consider a new building, and then a major funder named Bill Gray stepped forward and that was basically what gave up the guts to go ahead,” Sharon says.
Shortly after the Information and Networking Night in February 2020, things came to a halt and fundraising efforts shifted due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started filling out a lot of grant applications and setting up appointments with people we wanted to talk with. I dropped off a lot of packages and envelopes and talked a lot on the phone to potential donors. Things had really changed because we couldn’t meet in person or bring people in. The pandemic made it really tough,” says Sharon.
Supply issues were the next challenge.
“We were completely on schedule until we couldn’t get stuff,” Sharon says.
Luckily they were able to stay open at their original location on Main Street to continue offering foot clinics and other essential programs.
“Once we got the land, we started fundraising to put up the building. I wasn’t on the Building Committee, but I know that there was a lot of thought that went into what kind of building should be built and the committee decided on a pre-engineered structure,” says Robert.
That decision was made so they could control the cost of the building.
“The building is designed and the parts are made when you purchase it. Then they ship in all the parts and they put it up. It’s kind of like a Meccano set,” Robert explains.
While the new Centre is up and running, there’s still a bit more they’re fundraising for.
“We’re still fundraising for more furniture, shuffleboard, lots of different things. But we’ve got what we need for now,” Sharon says.
Able to Adapt
For the most part, each room in the Centre has multiple purposes.“Our games room is one of the very few rooms that doesn’t have many uses. That was a big thing for us, to make it so that spaces were adaptable. The moving walls help to make one big room or two smaller ones. We made sure we put in the specialized cushioned flooring in multiple rooms so that wherever our programs take place, they have the proper flooring,” she says.
While they also have a boardroom, they don’t call it that.
“Boardrooms are used once a month. This room is so much more than that. Computers are set up for members to use. We also run classes there,” Sharon says.
While adaptability is an important feature of the Centre, they’re also focused on working with the community rather than competing.
“We have a partnership with the gym uptown so people can go in there for a discount. It’s the same with swimming at the Gable Rees pool in Blenheim, we use the bowling alley uptown, and we use the pickleball court at the high school,” she says.
They’re also thinking about potential partnerships with local restaurants and service clubs to provide catering services. The kitchen at the Centre is a catering kitchen, so all food is prepared off-site and brought in.
While members of the Centre are 45 years and older, the organization is working on being a space that all residents, regardless of age, can enjoy.
“We’re working on a Community Use of Building outline and figuring out how that will work. It’s still a high priority to bring everyone from the community into the Centre,” says Sharon.
Community members have expressed interest in renting rooms for meeting spaces, passport clinics, and events. Both Sharon and Robert explained the response from members and the community at large has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The Open House demonstrated that this building attracts people. We had a steady flow and people kept coming in,” says Robert.
Another unique feature of the Centre is its use of native plants outside.
“Everywhere we could, we planted Carolinian species. We believe it’s the right thing to do to plant native species, especially since they do really well here. They have fewer problems, so there’s less maintenance to do,” Sharon says.
Lots To Do
There is no shortage of activities for members to enjoy at the Centre. Coralyn Sherwood joined the team this year as the program coordinator, and she says they’ve been keeping members busy.
“We have lots of exercise programs like yoga and chair yoga, VON exercise—which is more geared to people with mobility issues—Tai Chi, card games, and programs for special interests like sewing club and genealogy classes,” says Program Coordinator Coralyn Sherwood.
There are off-site activities as well.
“We just did a bus trip to Caesars Windsor to see a Cirque du Soleil holiday show, which was our first trip,” says Coralyn.
Socialization is a big part of the programs offered at the Centre.
“Now that we have our Safe Food Handlers course done, we hope to do some lunches for members soon. We are thinking of bringing in food from local restaurants, then selling tickets and then people can come in and have lunch together,” she says.
While there are several classes offered, the Centre also acts as a meeting place for those with special interests, like sewing.
“A lot of people bring their own sewing machine. Some just come in with a problem they may have. There are knitters and quilters who come in to socialize and talk about the projects they’re working on. It’s kind of a dedicated time where they can get out of the house away from distractions so they can get their projects done,” Coralyn says.
As for future programming, they’re hoping to bring more special interest programs, more computer and technology training and classes, and more exercise and dance classes.
To learn more about the Centre or to become a member, visit the website here.