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'It’s my lifeline': Volunteer sings praises of local seniors centre

'If people need it, I help out,' says Gerry Peters, who has volunteered at Askennonia Senior Centre in Midland since 2005
Gerry Peters practically lives at the Askennonia Senior Centre. She can often be found answering phones and participating in or leading exercise classes.

“I live here,” Gerry Peters says about how much time the avid volunteer spends at the Askennonia Senior Centre in Midland.

She started volunteering in 2005, and began working the front desk.

Now, she convenes the euchre game, leads one of the exercise classes, helps run the Circle of Friends program, and teaches line dancing.

While COVID-19 changed how programs worked at the centre, it didn’t slow down the most committed line dancers, who gathered in groups of 18 to get their electric slide on over Zoom.

Peters is such a devoted line dancer, she comes in to help in the basic classes and runs the advanced classes for more than two hours at a time.

Since she doesn’t own a car and she walks everywhere, it’s no surprise she doesn’t bat an eyelash at volunteering and line dancing with so much of her time.

If line dancing is not on your dance card, you will find everything from a rousing game of Scrabble, to computer training, table tennis, tai chi, quilting, woodworking, country jam sessions, and more at the Askennonia Senior Centre.

Local teens from the high school also come in to help older adults learn how to better use their cellphones, tablets, and more.

You will find art classes, yoga and chair yoga, ukulele lessons, a watch clinic, knitting, and a walking club.

If you have a talent you want to share, the spotlight can be yours at a coffee house that offers an afternoon of singing, dancing, and comedy.

“I can’t say enough about the Askennonia. There’s 55-plus programs here all week between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” says Peters.

The drop-in programs cost $1 and more, depending on the program, and if you like the activity and want to participate regularly, you can become a member for $50 per year.

“It’s such a wonderful hub for people,” says Peters.

People of various ages come in, from the newly retired to 90-plus, explains the newly minted octogenarian, who says she’s a young 81-year-old.

“I used to live in Mississauga, and there’s more things going on here than there was there every day of the week,” she says.

“It’s a friendly, open space here at the Askennonia. It’s my life line.”

Peters volunteers at the centre a few days a week, and often comes in even when she’s not scheduled to volunteer to be part of the community and lend a hand.

“If people need it, I help out,” she says. “I’m always here.”

Peters says the reason the centre attracts so many people has a lot to do with Blair Randolph, the volunteer and events manager, and Judy Contin, the executive director.

“They make things possible. They make things work. When you work with them, you’re willing to help out,” says Peters.

“We’re all working to make this place better.”

She encourages people to see what the centre has to offer.

“The socializing is so important for everyone after retirement,” she says. “It’s uplifting to be with other people.”

Check out the centre’s newsletter for more information about road trips to Toronto, St. Jacobs, Niagara Falls, and beyond.

The Askennonia Senior Centre is located at 527 Len Self Blvd. (North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre) in Midland. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.