RMSS: History in the making

A group have initiated a project to document the history of the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society.

Bob Foster

Bob Foster

The Ridge Meadows Seniors Society has a long history in Maple Ridge.

Run by a team of hard-working volunteers, the goal of the society is to provide social support services, education and recreation programs for people 55 years and older.

It moved to its current location along 224th Street, just north of 121st Avenue, in 1999, the year it became a registered charity.

Before that, it was known as the Elderly Citizens Recreation Association and was located further south along 224th where the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre is now built.

However, there is no detailed record of the society’s creation or its forebears.

Until now.

Bonny Klovance, Bob Foster and Michael Buckingham have initiated a project to do just that.

The trio formed a committee and with the help provided by Seniors Helping Seniors, a volunteer group that provides assistance to seniors in need, the trio has started the process of documenting the society’s history.

They have divided the project into two parts. First, they are going to chronicle the years from 2000 to present. Then they will go back in history starting from 1999.

“I was looking for a project that would draw some people to us,” said Bob Foster, coordinator of the both the project and Seniors Helping Seniors.

He says that it is not easy getting volunteers for it. Most of the volunteers in the Seniors Helping Seniors group are elderly, the average age being 79 and the numbers are dwindling. There are also a number of seniors that find themselves in what is known as the sandwich generation where they are over 55 years themselves and they have one or both parents that they are taking care of and teenaged children still living at home.

“They really can’t be expected to volunteer,” said Foster.

And there is another segment of seniors that have retired from work and want ‘me’ time, whether it be to go on a cruise or do nothing at all.

On June 6, the group set up a table at the Seniors Week program fair and managed to sign up 12 people who were interested in the project. Now they have 20 people who have been meeting once a month since then.

The project was inspired by a collection of 10 photo albums that were gathering dust in the cupboards at the centre. Inside the albums were photographs and newspaper clippings dating back to the 1970s.

“The concern was from Seniors Helping Seniors that, here they are sitting in a cupboard and nobody gets to see them. They should be circulated,” said Klovance, co-chair of the committee along with Buckingham.

“And that’s part of our project, to provide a venue and logistics for circulating the 10 albums that we have,” she said.

The group has given themselves a year to finish the project.

They don’t know what the finished product will look like just yet.

“I think it could be a presentation item and conceivable it could be given to every new member,” said Foster.

“One thing for sure, we are going to do a good job or not at all. It is not going to be rubbish,” he continued.

The next meeting for the group will be on December 1 where Foster is going to be giving a review of the project and where they plan to take it.

The group has already figured out who was on the board of directors when the society moved to the new building and who out of those people are still alive today. Now they need volunteers to conduct one-on-one interviews with those people to find out what the society was like during that time.

They are also looking for volunteers to do research at the Maple Ridge Public Library and at the Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives.

They want to find out how the society has grown, how many programs existed when the society started, how programs have progressed or dropped off in their appeal and the revenue and expenses of each year to document growth.

They will even document how many meals were served in 2000 compared to the present day.

“We can demonstrate how the (society) has grown under the stewardship of the volunteers,” said Foster.

Klovance, who regularly writes biographies of members for the Grapevine, would like to take vignettes from the interviews and include them in the year that an event happened so that the history is informational as well as enjoyable.

“It gives it a nice record. Especially people on (city) council or future board of directors here,” added Buckingham.

“This society has had somewhere around 1,400 or 1,500 members every year for many years,” Buckingham said.

“It’s an invitation to anyone who wants to get involved,” he said of the Dec. 1 meeting.

The group will also offer helpful hints about how to conduct an interview such as meeting in a quiet place and never asking questions that can be answered yes or no.

This will also be an ongoing project. Once the history of the society is documented, the group will work on reviews every year.

Foster is not concerned about a lack of information.

“The more we get into it, the more we find sources of information that we have not yet tapped,” he said.

“I’m confident that we can fill all these blanks in.”

Anyone interested in participating in the project or providing information can attend the meeting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 1 in the Library Room at the Ridge Meadows Seniors Activity Centre, 12150 – 224th St. in Maple Ridge.

For more information call 604-467-4993.