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Craft and Recreation Centre closes its doors after 55 years

The last gathering of the Craft and Recreation Centre took place on February 22 at the Huntingdon Legion, where around 30 members met for a final afternoon of crafts and activities. Coordinators Gloria McIntyre and Beverly Watson have been forced to close the 55-year-old program due to a lack of volunteers and the simple fact they can’t find someone willing to take over their duties leading the weekly activities.

“There is so much history,” says McIntyre, of the Centre that got its start at Lilian Rankin’s senior’s residence in Godmanchester before it was moved to the Huntingdon Legion. Buff Wilson became the first coordinator, with assistant Helen Stewart. Eventually Stewart took on the lead role and was assisted by Ruth Leggett before she recruited McIntyre.

 

Two women standing at table cutting into a cake.
Coordinators Gloria McIntyre and Beverly Watson were thanked for their 35 years of dedicated work running the Centre PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

“It is kind of sad because it has been such a long period of time,” says McIntyre, who has now helmed the program with Watson for 35 years. “I took it on, and it was a love for me and Bev, and we just went for it,” she laughs. “We love what we do. It has been a passion. It was never like work,” McIntyre explains. “But it’s a lot of work, and we are tired,” she laments.

At one time, there were upwards of 200 members who would attend every Wednesday. “It was an important social gathering,” says Watson. In the earlier days, there was a kitchen band that became quite popular; its members made music from whatever they could find or fashion in the kitchen. Accompanied by a piano, the band became so popular it was even featured on television when former Montreal weatherman Don McGowan dropped in for a listen.

The Centre was originally sponsored through the March of Dimes, and when that ended, the duo turned to organizing fundraising activities to continue. “We did trips, we had speakers; there was a lot that went on,” says McIntyre. Beyond card games, knitting, quilting, and different artistic activities, the Centre held performances and workshops, ran exercise and line dancing classes, and even hosted video game tournaments. 

 

A group of older adults standing and sitting in a recreation centre.
Members of the Crafts and Recreation Centre gathered for a final time on February 22 at the Huntingdon Legion The Centre is closing after 55 years of providing area seniors with weekly activities PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

“We celebrated all the occasions,” Watson reminisces. “There were a lot of luncheons… It was crazy times, but it was fun,” she smiles. “We certainly learned how to make sandwiches,” she adds, as McIntyre laughs while mimicking the proper technique for preparing pinwheel sandwiches and other “fancy” finger foods. “We always got out of whatever trouble we got into,” laughs McIntyre, noting that no matter the activity, the Centre has always strived to provide a fun-filled outing for seniors to enjoy in good company.

Activities would traditionally close over the summer; but otherwise, in 55 years, the Centre only stopped when the Legion was undergoing renovations and during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time gathering was permitted following the worst of the pandemic, the Legion was still being used as a vaccination centre.

Watson explains that the number of members has dwindled since then. “We don’t have any young people,” she says. “And we just don’t have enough help,” she adds.

Both Watson and McIntyre are aware that their decision to close will leave a void in the lives of their members. Watson suggests that several social groups have been formed that she hopes will continue to meet now that the Centre has closed. The coordinators are also positive that groups such as the Montérégie West Community Network will be able to take over where they are leaving off.

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