Corrie Grypstra, senior member at the Happy Gang Centre, says that she’s been coming for meals and games for years. For her, it’s the best spot in Terrace to meet other people. (Natalia Balcerzak/Photo)

Happy Gang Centre raises prices to break-even

Centre’s need for funding and volunteers becoming dire

The Happy Gang Centre is opening its doors this month to entice people to join or volunteer as their need for funding grows dire.

Also known as the Terrace Old Age Pensioners’ Association, the centre is a popular gathering spot for seniors that offers affordable home-made meals and activities. But as price of living goes up, board members are saying that they can barely make ends meet with costs.

“We lost the revenue this year. We didn’t quite make it, we had to move funds around. It makes it harder for us to operate because we’re constantly under the gun,” says Beverly Hayden, board member at the Happy Gang Centre. “We barely break-even, that’s why we’re doing this recruiting.”

For decades, the non-profit centre has been self-sufficient by relying on income from their membership program, food services, fundraisers and donations. They rely heavily on volunteers to help cook the food and run game nights, but as many retire or move on from their roles, they struggle to fill those gaps and are forced to make changes to their programs.

“We’ve increased the prices of our lunches from $8 to $10. The membership fee was $14 per year and now it’s $20 to try to offset some of those costs,” Hayden says. “We serve food, costs go up all the time and we haven’t changed it for a long while.”

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Alice Bannister, publicity coordinator at the Happy Gang Centre, says that they held meetings and consulted members last fall on increasing prices, adding that the extra $6 to the membership fee was a suggestion.

“We have to make enough to keep our building open. Everyone thought (the prices were) still reasonable for members,” says Bannister.

She adds that their meals have been getting more elaborate as well, using more healthier ingredients and making mostly everything they serve, given that they “don’t serve jello anymore.”

To offset added costs, Bannister says the board decided to implement a punch card that would give a free meal to members after they’ve purchased 10 lunches. They haven’t had anyone makes complaints to them about the price increase, but she acknowledges that some seniors may be “too proud” to talk about their financial struggles openly.

Last summer, there weren’t enough volunteers to run their daily lunches so they had to cut their services to only one to two days a week. This caused a decline in their revenue as they lost their main source to make money.

Although it’s been a difficult time, Hayden says that there are too many people invested in the centre to let it go. It’s encouraged them to become more creative and appreciate each other’s company more.

“We never talk about how broke we are when we’re here, we’re just here to have fun.”

This year, Bannister says they’ve put a request forward to connect with Coast Mountain College (CMTN) over the summer, which would aid their void with volunteers. They’re hoping to have culinary students fulfill their practicum requirements at the Happy Gang Centre’s kitchen.

Other than that, no other grants have been considered as they’re still evaluating their costs for this year and are currently focused on volunteer recruitment.

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Bannister says that they look forward to having their open house event to show the public everything they have to offer.

“For a lot of (people here), myself included, we’re widows so we don’t have anyone at home anymore so it’s the place to get together… to not sit at home and eat alone. You can come here and meet other people,” says Bannister.“We’ll be displaying our activities, our card games, our sowing, our singing — we even have a glee club every Tuesday afternoon.”

She adds that it’s not just for seniors and that anyone can join at 19 years and older.

The open house event will take place on Feb. 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Lunches are served from Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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