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New Hope is a quilt made of activities, comfort food and conversation

September 2011

Ara Avedissan, 88, has only good things to say about the New Hope Senior Citzen’s Centre in N.D.G.

Once a week, he and his wife, Marielle Deguire, attend an exercise class and a community lunch at the centre and chat with the other members and staff. “The people there are very pleasant and genuine,” Avedissian says.

But despite the fact that the food and conversation are great, and that a yearly membership costs a mere $10, the New Hope Centre seems to be a well-kept secret in the community.

“We’re having a hard time getting our name out there these days,” says Gerry Lafferty, executive director of the centre.

“Yet we’ve been in N.D.G. for over 32 years and we are the biggest Wheels on Meals provider in western Montreal.”

The centre, whose mandate is to break isolation among seniors, prepared 11,000 meals and 6,000 community lunches last year, available to members for $5.

Though its name implies the services are for seniors, the youngest member is 55 and the oldest “a very active 97-year-old,” Lafferty says. “In the past we have accepted people under 50 if they really needed us.”

Members usually come one or a few days a week for the day program, which consists of exercise class, lunch and games afterward.

“Between all of this I try to bring in guest speakers with a focus on health and safety,” Lafferty says.

The centre offers classes in art and there is an ongoing, immensely accomplished quilting class whose creations are sometimes used to raise funds at the annual Christmas craft bazaar.

Ara Avedissan and wife Marielle Deguire visit New Hope Senior Citizen’s Centre for an exercise class and a community lunch. Photo: Kristine Berey

If members who live in N.D.G. can’t get to the centre because of reduced mobility or because they can’t access adapted transport, the centre provides door-to-door transportation.

Lafferty is proud of a special exercise program, called Viactive.

“It can be done standing, or sitting on a chair or leaning against something. It is done to beautiful music and the teacher, who herself had both knees replaced, is fantastic,” he says. “Besides quilting, it’s our biggest program.”

Avedissian says he enjoys the lunches and he and Deguire often buy frozen meals to take home. All of the classic comfort foods are represented on the menu, including fish, chicken, roast beef and shepherd’s pie. At the moment, the centre has 132 senior members and delivers to 100 Meals on Wheels clients. “Like the lunches, the Meals on Wheels are three-course meals consisting of soup or salad, main course and dessert, delivered to your door,” Lafferty says.

The meals and their delivery are the work of a devoted team of volunteers, including chef Michael Easton, who cooks up a storm four days a week.

Though the Centre receives funding, it must raise more than half its budget on its own.

Besides the Christmas bazaar, funds are raised through the Cents for Seniors fundraiser during the fall.

“Last year we raised $1,000 in pennies,” Lafferty says.

“I buy rollers and put stickers on them and pass them out to everyone I know for their pennies. The bank hates me—I bring cases and cases of pennies, and this will go on until the end of October.”

A gently used women’s clothes boutique, open until after lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, also helps with expenses.

“We are always looking for donations of ladies’ clothes,” Lafferty says.

Many New Hope members are single women who don’t have families in the city.

“It’s a phenomenon in Montreal that children born in the ’70s have left Montreal to find a job, leaving their parent(s) without support. New Hope is their support.”

The New Hope Centre welcomes new members. Call Gerry Lafferty at 514-484-0425.



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