Mill Woods Seniors Association (MWSA) is in the hub of Mill Woods in south Edmonton. It operates on the second floor of the Edmonton Public Library building at 2610 Hewes Way NW.
MWSA reopened to in-person programming July 5. The centre’s Executive Director Deb Cautley says the decision to re-open came after careful discussion.
"People are coming back--slowly--which is okay, because it takes us a while to get up to full speed as well.”
Much of the programming at MWSA is also still being offered online, while the 2nd Floor Cafe has continued takeout options for lunches and cinnamon buns. The centre intends to continue this hybrid model and modify existing spaces as needed.
While the pandemic has changed how MWSA delivers its programming, it hasn’t changed the atmosphere at the centre. MWSA prides itself on being a welcoming space for people of all cultures, backgrounds, ages, and abilities. The centre has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and works to provide a platform for meaningful cultural education.
“It’s about creating a sense of community,” said Karen Lee, MWSA’s Communications & Fund Development Coordinator. From staff and volunteers speaking a range of languages for the diverse membership, to culturally-themed programming, to the delicious offerings at the café, which regularly features global flavours or ingredients, the centre works to ensure members see themselves reflected in all that's happening.
“Food is a way to get a taste of that multicultural aspect in a very safe kind of environment,” said Lee.
In another area, the Golden Reflections video series shows older adults, many MWSA members from different backgrounds, share stories and experiences related to aging and discrimination in the community.
“Some topics are very emotional. When you’re more vulnerable with your story, you're able to connect with the bigger community on a deeper level," said Lee, adding that the videos have compelled some MWSA members to get to know others on a more meaningful level.
In 2022, the centre will dedicate each month to a culturally-specific theme and celebrate the important holidays and traditions of various cultures. It’s this kind of embedded commitment that not only educates but creates a sense of community.
Despite challenges from COVID-19 around the centre's ever-needed fundraisers, MWSA has held online silent auctions, virtual Christmas dinners and a rummage sale, with more in the works.
Cautley says the MWSA board has created an external relations committee to focus on sponsorships. "You have to either cut back programming and services or make more money,” she said. But despite budget uncertainty, MWSA will continue to be a connection point where everyone is welcome. “We're not just a seniors centre, we are part of the Mill Woods community."
“No matter your background, your age, or what you're all about, we are here for you, and you have a place in the heart of Mill Woods," added Lee.
For more on the Mill Woods Seniors Association, see www.mwsac.ca or call 780-496-2997.
Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council’s Stakeholder Spotlight series intends to raise awareness about the important work being done to support older Edmontonians by various organizations across the city. Learn more at seniorscouncil.net.