Compiled in 2023 by Jennifer Marion with information from documents (minutes, letters, etc.) at the Okotoks Archive Museum, Western Wheel Articles, Okotoks & District Seniors Club History Scrapbook 2009, and chats with Marg Black and Ed Poffenroth.
1920s to 1960s – ORIGINS & FOUNDING
A favorite activity in Okotoks in the 1920’s was dancing and socializing. People gathered above the hardware store and later at the Elks Hall (the building of the Elks Hall was completed in 1928 and was known as “The Country Club of Okotoks.”) The family dances continued into the 1960’s when the Okotoks Seniors Country Club was formed in May 1969 by Jack Patterson (who was also the first president) with the help of Rev. Fred Miles. At the time, the club had 29 members aged 50 years and over.
1970s – FINDING A HOME
The club shared space with the Teen club to start in the old Creamery building on Riverside Drive but moved to the east end of the curling club in the fall of their first year, sharing space with the Handicraft club. In 1974 they moved downtown into the building at the NE corner of McRae St and Clark Ave. The Town had purchased the location from the Royal Bank (who held the mortgage) for $1.00 with the provision that it be used for a senior’s centre. The building was small and needed renovations.
In 1975 the club was incorporated under the Alberta Societies Act. Daily activities at the club included puzzles, pool, and socializing. The club had day trips to various Alberta destinations and many members explored their artistic skills in painting, crafts, and writing. One of the popular social functions was the 80 and over tea, held each year to celebrate everyone in town who had reached that age.
1980s – SEPARATION & MERGER
Over the years the Club participated in many community events (parades, festivals, catering functions and was involved in projects affecting the Town). The club had an area in the building where members could come and have a coffee, socialize, and maybe do a puzzle. This area was favored by many members. As the Town owned the property the club always seemed to be in negotiations for their lease and requesting of funds for renovations.
In early 1987 there was a conflict at the Okotoks Seniors Country Club possibly regarding activities and some members left the club to meet on their own. There were other people and groups meeting at their homes and other locations in the area. Ron Phillips brought these groups together into the new Okotoks Active Social Club. Ron Phillips became the first president. The club had younger seniors who wanted to get out and do more things than were offered by the Okotoks Seniors Country Club.
Weekly activities consisted of bingo, cards, hiking, bowling, curling, golf, horseshoes, and lawn darts. The club had fun with skits, parties, trips, dances, and dinners. They participated in Sports Day and had a float in the parade. The club would meet for activities at different venues across Okotoks.
The Active group spent a lot of time working with the Town to try and secure a place for their club to meet but were unsuccessful. They knew they could not continue as a proper club meeting at these many locations in town. Both clubs were now requesting funds for a bigger facility from the town. The town would not consider funding two senior clubs and told the two clubs they needed to merge to access any funding. The two clubs tried to get together on their own but were unsuccessful.
Proposed Merger of the Clubs
On Feb 1, 1988, Okotoks Active Seniors President Ron Phillips sent a letter to the Town of Okotoks to ask them to appoint a mediator to assist in bringing the two senior clubs together as well as assist in finding a suitable facility. Some of the main points to be discussed included:
- The premises currently occupied by the Okotoks Seniors Country Club by the desired location.
- The executives of both clubs resign, and a new executive is elected by secret ballot.
- The executive to meet monthly.
- The club has a new name.
- The Town investigates enlarging the current facility.
- The club helps fundraise for expansion.
- The club to open six days a week. Each morning was to be a drop-in centre for coffee and socializing, afternoons were for special events and evenings for club events.
The Town had hoped the clubs could get together to resolve their issues on their own and didn’t think the Council should be involved. When a second letter was received on Feb 29, 1988, the Town appointed a mediator to facilitate discussions starting in April. The Town also offered a grant as well as possible FCSS funding towards a larger facility.
From April to Jul 1988 the Town sent letters to the Okotoks Seniors Country Club wanting a new lease agreement signed that would include increased utilization and hours of the senior’s centre.
Membership at the Okotoks Seniors Country Club was not growing, whereas the Active Social Club was seeing an increase in membership and a high level of participation in activities. The Town again suggested an amalgamation of the two clubs and again offered grants and FCSS funding.
On January 3, 1989, the two clubs merged and held an AGM and an election. The combined club now had 168 members aged 55 and over and there were several programs proposed for the coming months. A letter was sent to the Town stating the two clubs have merged and will temporarily use the name Okotoks Seniors Country Club.
The Town sent a letter to the president of the Okotoks Seniors Country Club, Ron Phillips on Jan 19, 1989. They would like to meet to discuss the lease and expansion of the existing centre. Ron Phillips responded on Jan 23, 1989, to the mayor stating membership has now exceeded capacity at the country club facility and the Club does not have funds for a new facility. The priority was to acquire land to build a facility. A new lease was eventually approved by the board and signed on June 13, 1989.Fundraising started midway through 1989 with rummage and bake sales and the club applied to do bingo, pull tickets and raffles.
1990s – A NEW HOME
An agenda for the AGM on Jan 9, 1991, shows the club was looking to amend the bylaws. Modifications included membership fees set at $15, Board position term limits would be for a maximum of 3 years, and monies from the Okotoks Active Social Club be consolidated into one account and used for a new facility.
On April 20, 1991, the Okotoks Seniors Country Club and the Okotoks Active Social Club opened a new savings bank account under the name Okotoks and District Seniors Club Building Account. Approximately $6000 was deposited by each club. The funds were to be held in trust and administered by the Town of Okotoks. The funds in the building account were to be used exclusively for a new senior centre facility.
Two Clubs Again
Sometime in 1992 the group again split into 2 clubs.
A news article in the Western Wheel on Nov 4, 1992, stated the Active Social Club were planning to raise funds for a new community centre. They planned a bingo and held their own casino night. The Okotoks Seniors Citizen’s Club were raising funds with the help of the service clubs, and other interested parties to expand and modernize the current building, which included the addition of a wheelchair ramp. The expansion took place in 1994 with the help of the Elks Club.
In 1994 the Okotoks Seniors Citizen’s Club celebrated their 25th anniversary. Members participated in the 1994 Alberta Senior games including the torch run.
New Building Plans for a Community and Senior Centre
By November 1994, a small group of business people were proposing to raise funds to build a community centre which would house a senior centre as well as a youth facility. The province was not giving much in grants and hard work was required by all if the project was to proceed.
On April 17, 1996, a site was being considered near the Foothills Composite High School. The group that has been acting as a steering committee for the past 18 months registered the Foothills Centennial Centre Foundation (FCCF) as a society. The steering committee became the board of directors for the Foothills Centennial Centre Foundation.
The seniors had thought that the Royal Bank had donated the building to the Seniors and not to the Town. Winston Parker, Eve Johnson and Phyllis Parker searched titles and council minutes and were able to prove the building was donated to the Seniors. The building was appraised at $200,000 and the Town was asked to contribute that sum to the construction of the new seniors’ home in the Community Centre. The Town came up with $90,000 for the seniors, $90,000 for the youth centre and $20,000 for landscaping.
On May 14, 1997, The FCCF unveiled a design for the Community Centre. There would be several club rooms, dinner seating for up to 630 people, as well as a room designated for the Seniors and another room for youth. The Foundation was hoping that construction could start in the Fall of 1998, with an expected cost of $3.5 million. The hope was to have all the funding in place, and the opening was anticipated for the Fall of 1999.
An article in the Western Wheel on March 11, 1998, stated the design was still changing and approval was required from the Town for each change. The seniors had Winston Parker attend meetings for two years to ensure the senior area would not be impacted by the changes. The hall was now able to hold 1000 people for dinner and would have a commercial kitchen. This would allow for many kinds of activities to be held. Donations totaled $800K and continued climbing. Funding requirements had increased to $3.7 million.
Finally, on April 21, 1999, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Community Centre took place. Ed and Mary Poffenroth brought the two clubs together under the name Okotoks and District Seniors Club. The club was incorporated under the societies act on June 18, 1999, and started to hold monthly meetings at the Okotoks Seniors Citizen’s Club location.
By mid-July, the FCCF told the town council that construction was underway, but grant monies were not coming in fast enough to complete construction by the target date. A request for a 10-year loan for 1.4 million was made that would come from municipal taxes. A Plebiscite was held on Sep 20 to increase municipal taxes in Okotoks to pay for the community centre. A $150K home would see a $58 increase. Residents of Okotoks voted no to funding and the construction was stopped. The foundation stated they would continue to raise funds to complete the centre.
In the meantime, the Town council voted unanimously to advance the FCCF $400K to close the partially constructed Foothills Community Centre (FCC) for the winter on Oct 20, 1999. The Town required any funds acquired through fund raising be used to pay back the advance before further construction.
2000s - OPENING
On Tuesday Feb 16, 2000, over 100 residents attended a meeting regarding fundraising and construction updates at the partially built community centre. They got a glance at the incomplete facility. The goal was to have the senior and youth centre completed by the end of the year.
On Mar 29, 2000, the FCCF announced a Home Lottery Fundraiser with a variety of prizes. 6500 tickets were to be sold for $100 each. The home was anonymously donated. The draw would be on Jun 17. Other prizes were a Pontiac Sunfire, 25 phones, and cash prizes from $500-2500. Only 2200 tickets were sold, which gave the foundation $80K in profit. As of May 3, 2000, the seniors had raised enough money for the youth centre to be completed.
A meeting was held at the Firehall on June 28, 2000, that was attended by 100 local seniors. As all funding was in place for the senior and youth centre and they were not part of the FCCF, the thought was that they should be allowed to proceed. Seniors had several grants valued at $350K that needed to be used for construction before year end. $498K was required to complete construction. Town Council gave the go ahead for the construction of the seniors and youth centre to recommence.
The FCCF held a successful auction at the FCC site on Oct 7, 2000. Several community groups helped in the fundraising, The Rotary Club, Cadets, Guides, and Kinsmen all contributed among others. The total raised was around $150K which included funds from a 50/50, donations, and bake sale. On Oct. 25 the FCCF presented a cheque to Mayor Bill McAlpine for repayment of the loan. They were now debt free.
On October 27, 2000, the senior and youth areas opened. The celebration started at 1:00 pm at a ribbon cutting ceremony with many dignitaries in attendance. Over 150 community residents attended. A grand opening bash and Christmas party was held by the seniors on Dec 13.
More to follow.
Okotoks & District Seniors Club History Scrapbook 2009