Goward House serves up connection and community with new pantry program

Goward House serves up connection and community with new pantry program

Myrna Rose loves to volunteer in the kitchen at Goward House.

“I just felt that there was a need, and then I met more people, and I’ve met some very, very good friends,” the Saanich resident says. “Some of my best friends are here, and I feel like it’s enriched my life because you’re kind of giving back to the community.”

Myrna’s been volunteering at this Saanich seniors’ activity centre for about seven years now and is helping with the new pantry program that started in September.

“The idea is that members could come and buy frozen foods and baking and take home because a lot of times seniors don’t really feel like having to cook a meal, and it just sort of an easy day for them,” she says.

The drop-in centre, which is open Monday to Friday, is a ‘home away from home’ for people aged 50 and up.

“We have friends, we have opportunities to strengthen our bodies with all the different physical activities and to exercise our brains with guest speakers, bridge, Mahjong, and all this stuff that’s really good for those of us who are getting on in age to make sure we have strong brains and strong bodies,” Goward House Society vice-president Mary Collins says with a laugh.

“I love the house, it’s so unique and the gardens around it are so beautiful,” adds Goward House Society president Allan Davies. “It draws people from the community and there’s a sense of fellowship here that you just don’t get at very many places.”

That sense of community has become even more important since the COVID pandemic, with seniors disproportionately affected by loneliness and isolation.

“During COVID, people isolated, particularly elderly people, and they got into a routine of isolation, and then it was hard for them to break out and take the chance of being with other people again, and they needed encouragement,” Allan explains.

That’s why Goward House started the pantry program in conjunction with a weekly hot lunch for members.

“Lasagna, shepherd’s pie — those types of things seem to be quite popular,’ Myrna says. “And once we figure out what exactly everybody wants, we’ll try and make the same things over and over again.”

The members who volunteer at Goward House say it’s incredibly rewarding, and they’re always looking for more volunteers.

“I get a lot of reward out of volunteering because I can see the house emerge more and more as a place people love to come,” Allan says.

“I think it’s really important if you have the opportunity, and the time, to be involved in volunteering and different kinds of activities,” Mary adds.

“I never thought I was a social person until I joined here and I realized that it is something that I really, really like. I really like!” Myrna says with a big smile.

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