by Paula Kully –
You can walk into the SHOAL Centre at 10030 Resthaven Drive in Sidney on any given day and find it a bustle of activity. People coming and going, a fitness class underway in the auditorium, a glass case full of handcrafted gifts for sale, friends chatting over a cup of tea or coffee and a fresh-baked scone from the Tuck Shop, volunteers brushing past you and up the stairs to a meeting – this is not your average seniors’ centre.
SHOAL, which stands for “Sidney Healthy Options for Active Living,” lives up to its name in a big way. The Centre offers a wide range of workshops, fitness classes, games, entertainment and much more. SHOAL opened its doors in 2005 and has been operated by Beacon Community Services since 2007. It houses the community centre, kitchen and 80 residents who live in independent and assisted living apartments upstairs.
The driving force behind the energy at SHOAL is a result of the management, dedication and influence of Glenys Cavers, Director of Thrift Shops and SHOAL Centre for Beacon Community Services and her exceptional team of staff and volunteers. Glenys’ past experience encompassed managing and motivating large groups of people and developing great teams. Before moving to the Peninsula in 2001, she was a professional swim and water polo coach in Ontario. She oversaw programs for a swim club that included 500 three- to eight-year-olds and 100 six- to 12-year-olds. She also managed a staff of 50.
Glenys brought the skills she acquired coaching to her position with the SHOAL Centre in 2013. Under her direction, SHOAL is thriving and growing. The activities that the general public may be aware of such as yoga classes, fitness classes, pickleball, painting, table tennis and the like, are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg at SHOAL.
Glenys has focused her energies first on developing a remarkable team of people that consists of 20 paid staff and hundreds of volunteers. Beacon Community Services is supported by 543 volunteers – 200 of these volunteers assist with services offered through SHOAL. In what you might consider an interesting and successful reversal of roles, staff of SHOAL support the volunteers rather than the other way around. In this, Glenys has created a volunteer team that is dedicated to delivering services to 2,300 clients annually. This includes preparing income tax returns, the Better at Home program which provides subsidized housekeeping and providing transportation to and from medical appointments. To put these services into perspective, consider that annually, volunteers clock 120,000 kilometres driving clients to medical appointments at a cost of $63,000 in mileage.
SHOAL also oversees the Youth Employment Program that provides students between 14 and 18 years old with both paid and volunteer opportunities throughout the community.
The Centre’s kitchen is another area of SHOAL that offers a number of great services. To begin with, many people may not be aware that the dining room is open to the general public for lunch and dinner 365 days a year. The daily meals are preset and include coffee, tea, dessert and tax. In fact, anything you purchase at SHOAL has taxes included in the price.
Beyond the dining room, the kitchen provides catering for room rentals and events. The Centre can accommodate everything from small meetings to birthday parties, anniversaries, celebrations of life and large events of up to 300 people. The kitchen’s chef works with clients to prepare a menu that is suitable for their event and the team at SHOAL set up and take down. The facility is also equipped with audio-visual equipment for presentations.
Membership at SHOAL has grown to 1,000 and is open to anyone. The cost is $50 per year unless you are 100 years old. Once you reach this milestone, membership is free. The Centre currently has two such members. Benefits include free admission to many of the seminars, workshops and activities hosted at the Centre, access to special events, discounts on rentals and free treats on your birthday!
So, next time you happen by the SHOAL Centre, drop in and have a look around; you might be surprised by what you find there.