Hamiota centre recognized for economic innovation


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Meeting the local aging population’s need for a place to socialize, remain active and learn earned the Hamiota 55-plus centre recognition at the Provincial Awards for Excellence in Economic Development.

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Meeting the local aging population’s need for a place to socialize, remain active and learn earned the Hamiota 55-plus centre recognition at the Provincial Awards for Excellence in Economic Development.

The centre and its R Store, where used items are resold, won Project of the Year in the over $100,000 category at the Economic Developers Association Awards in Brandon on May 11, edging out the Municipality of Brenda-Waskada’s nomination for providing fibre-optic internet to households in its community.

The award recognizes a municipality, community development corporation, town, group or committee that has undertaken a project or activity in the last 18 months that has or will have significant and long-term economic effects. It must be a new project with a total cost of over $100,000. The project must be able to be replicated, be local, regional or provincial in scope, be community or business focused and demonstrate significant impact to the community and region.

The Hamiota 55-plus Centre and R-Store. (Facebook)

Wendy Petersen, a community development analyst at Community Futures Westman, a group that provides loans to area organizations, nominated the centre after working with its organizers to make it a reality.

“I work with communities and organizations to try to get them to come up with alternative ways of being able to organize economic development for businesses, thinking outside the box of the typical business models that people normally see,” Petersen said.

When she got together with Sharla Kirk, president of the centre, and other members of its board, Petersen quickly realized they were a highly motivated, extremely unified group who wanted to provide a way for Hamiota’s 55 and over population — which she said is 50 per cent of its citizens — a way to connect and thrive.

“They knew that if they wanted this, they were the ones who were going to have to champion it, and they were going to have to move it forward. A big part of it was the fact that they all saw the common goal, and they all worked together to get there, and it just kind of grew from there,” Petersen said.

With the drive and determination in place, Petersen helped the group choose a company name and get incorporated, set up their charitable status and other technical and business-related steps they needed to do before they could open. The entire process, she said, was made easier by the people she was working with.

“It was such an easy process to work through because they were so passionate about it and knew that it was what the community needed, and that it would change the community forever, she said.

The centre has proven capable of bringing not just senior citizens but people from all walks of life and ages together, Petersen said. Recently, some high school-aged students have been leading techonology workshops for seniors, such as how to use Facebook, iPads and tablets.

“It’s a great intergenerational program,” Petersen said.

The R Store, which sells gently used items such as furniture, appliances, home décor, tools, building supplies and more, opened Aug. 28 and has proved to be very popular in the community.

“Our store is doing so well. It’s paying a lot of bills for the centre, and we’re storing things that normally end up in the landfill. It also gives a great volunteer opportunity for some people,” Petersen said.

The centre and store’s reach has gone beyond just the community of Hamiota, Kirk told the Sun, with a good number of people from surrounding communities coming to check it out.

Area high school students recently led a workshop to teach seniors how to use iPads at the Hamiota 55-plus Centre, which won the award for Project of the Year (over $100,000) at the Provincial Awards for Excellence in Economic Development. (Facebook)

“That’s added some economic growth to our other businesses in town as well,” she said.

Since the centre’s grand opening in December, there’s been a steady number of people within the community and outside of it who are using the facility and store, said Daryl Knight, the facility’s treasurer and board member.

“The last couple of months we’ve been averaging between 250 and 300 people signing our guest book a month, and that’s not counting for special events,” he said.

From card games to bingo, to Halloween and Christmas-themed events, Knight expects the centre to continue to be a place that people flock to for socialization and leisure, as well as to learn more about community issues, such as educating older adults about phone and email scams.

“Seniors have been very, very receptive to coming and volunteering,” he said. “It’s all about the seniors and the volunteers. It’s their place to make it happen.”

» mleybourne@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @miraleybourne

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