A memory of her grandma reciting an original poem at the grand opening of a senior's social and activity club in Collingwood inspired Jenn Gerynowicz to revisit the club and old pastimes by dusting off the dance floor at the Leisure Time Club.
“This story has Hallmark all over it,” laughed Gerynowicz, granddaughter of the late Norma Scott.
Scott was known in Collingwood as a poet, and was often asked to contribute an original piece for special occasions, which included the grand opening of the Leisure Time Club in 1988. Gerynowicz attended the event with her grandma, eager to hear the poem she wrote for the occasion.
“I was 15 when she read the poem for the opening and the mayor cut the ribbon,” said Gerynowicz.
Years later, as Gerynowicz approached 50, she dug up her grandma’s book of poems, seeking inspiration for an upcoming venture she was working on that focused on older adults. Leafing through its pages, she was struck by the wisdom in Scott's words, especially about the significance of human connections as we age. It hit her: the Leisure Time Club, with its supportive community atmosphere, plays a key role in providing a space where older individuals can find companionship and a sense of belonging in the community.
“I wanted to do something for them,” she said. “I had this insight about connection and how important it is once people are retired and no longer have a ‘normal’ social life, they really need those connections.”
Driven by this desire, Gerynowicz met with the board of directors to learn about existing gaps in programming, funding and volunteer support. She saw the club’s upcoming anniversary as an opportunity to inject fresh energy and enthusiasm, so she decided to organize an event that would evoke the grandeur of the club's inception.
She planned a community dance to celebrate the club and the connections forged there.
News of the upcoming celebration spread throughout Collingwood, sparking excitement and anticipation among both Leisure Time Club members and the wider community. The response was overwhelming, said Gerynowicz, with folks expressing their enthusiasm to reconnect after a period of pandemic-induced isolation.
“There was energy in the building,” she said. “There was excitement amongst the seniors in this community. They haven’t had a dance for the club ... in years – funding is difficult and volunteers are hard to get.”
Gerynowicz also decided that her newly launched venture, Techie Nesters — which offers tech support and other helpful services for older adults — would sponsor the event, so she made it free for Leisure Time Club members and priced tickets at $30 for non-members. Due to the club’s affordable $35 annual membership fee, a number of attendees decided to join the club instead of just purchasing a ticket, resulting in an influx of new members into the community.
As the doors swung open on June 29, the dance floor beckoned, and beats from the handpicked band filled the air, Gerynowicz said it was impossible to resist the pull of the music. The energy in the room was electric as Leisure Time Club members and guests hit the dance floor, twirling and laughing, with big grins plastered across their faces.
“The dance floor was not empty, ever,” said Gerynowicz. “People came ready to party, it was awesome.”
In a heartwarming tribute to Norma Scott's poetic prowess, the lead singer of the band recited Scott's original poem from 1988.
The celebration left Leisure Time Club members yearning for more events of its kind, with volunteers at the club saying that people were coming up to them asking to host social events more often.
“People were coming up to us saying we need to do an event like this every month!” said Gerynowicz.
June Murray, who is in charge of compassionate care at the Collingwood Leisure Time Club said in response, a social committee has been created to host other social events at the club — including more dances.
“We never had that before,” said Murray. “We want to do a lot of socials for the members, and do other activities to introduce the club to non-members as well.”
Murray said she told her neighbour, who previously wasn’t a member of the Collingwood Leisure Time Club, about the event. She purchased a membership out of curiosity and Murray said her neighbour has thanked her every day since.
“There are a lot of people in town who don’t know about the club. So building that awareness is great,” she said.
The Leisure Time Club was founded in 1988 by a dedicated group of community members who managed to raise enough funds and eventually incorporated it as a non-profit corporation. In order to be eligible to join, members must be at least 50 years old or older.
The Leisure Time Club now has over 1,100 members from Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Meaford, Feversham and further, and offers programs that include everything from the numerous bridge lessons and leagues, to billiards, shuffleboard, painting, line dancing, exercise classes, quilting, and much more.
You can find more information and contact details on the Leisure Time Club website.