Major mover and shaker at the Seniors’ Centre says life couldn’t be better – the place is working just fine.

 By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 23, 2012  The first clue is the handle bar mustache that is now snow white.  The moment you see it you just know this is a military guy.  Then you hear him addressed as Major and the suspicion is confirmed.  The next question is – which service – and if it was the army you know the man has an ass as hard as nails.  Turns out Joe Veitch was Royal Air Force Major – which softens the image, but not by much.

Joe Veitch, mover and shaker at the Seniors’ Centre listens patiently, to anyone who wants to talk to him – but then he wants to get a decision made and get something done.

Joe Veitch tends to get right to the point and while not abrupt he doesn’t know how to doddle over anything.  The day we met at the Seniors’ Centre Veitch had had his toe nails done. “It’s one of the things you can get done here and it costs just $22. We then went for coffee – $1 a cup if you buy a card that gets you ten cups.

Breakfast comes in at $6.11 and it was the setting up of this breakfast service for the seniors that Joe Veitch was awarded one of the Queen’s Jubilee Medals which is now on his uniform along with a Canadian Forces Decoration.  He has yet to wear it in public.

Joe Veitch inspecting the medals on his uniform. He was a recent recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee medal for the work he did in setting up a Seniors Breakfast program at the Centre

This new commemorative medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.  During the year of celebrations, 60,000 deserving Canadians will be recognized.

This new medal gets added to the Canadian Forces Decoration which Veitch holds.  It is awarded to officers of the Canadian Forces, who have completed twelve years of service.  Veitch has the medal and one bar.

With his military career in his past Veitch now focuses on the Seniors’ Centre in Burlington where 3,000 members make heavy use of the facility on New Street, situated next to the Lawn Bowling Green, the YMCA, the Library and the Central Arena – with plenty of parking as well and excellent transit service.

During my time at the Centre the meeting room where people can have their meals was as busy, if not more so, than most of the restaurants I have been to in Burlington.

The Region classifies the Centre as a “private club” which gives Veitch considerable satisfaction and a bit of a chuckle.

The Seniors Centre is run by a Board of Management. They are always on the lookout for young at heart board members.

The centre is run by a 12 member Board of Management – elections will take place at the end of September.   The BOM was required by the city to incorporate, which the city made easy by putting up the money to cover the cost of that incorporation.

The Centre has a nice solid sum in their reserve fund – between $120,000 and $130,000 and has managed to get the city to pay the GST/HST tax the Centre neglected to collect on its goods sales over the last ten years or so.  It is clear that one has to make sure their wallet is tucked away in your pocket when you negotiate with these people.

While the difficulties the Centre had with the city over the handling of the woman who runs the kitchen, Veitch is quick to say that he believes the problems can and will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  Little wonder that Veitch would make such a statement after the almost total “give in” on the part of the city during the first stage of negotiations.

“This used to be a very happy place before the difficulties” explained Veitch “and I hope we can get it back to that.“

The revenue from the memberships, classes and rentals all goes to the city”, explains Veitch. “we get to keep the revenue from the Bistro and from the sales of items from our Boutique”.

“The city”, according to Veitch, “put up $320,000 each year to subsidize the Centre” – which Veitch says works out to $106  per senior; “and that’s a lot more than they put up for every visitor to the Art centre or the Performing Arts Centre`, declares Veitch.

In 2006, this is where seniors tended to live in Burlington

Longer term, what are the future needs of the Centre and its Seniors’ going to be – Veitch doesn’t have much to say on that level.  He does feel that at some point the building will have to be expanded and he feels there should be facilities for seniors north of the QEW.  “There are some programs for the seniors at Tansley Woods as well as some programing at Brant Hills – but the New Street Centre is definitely “Senior Central”.

In 2011 more seniors were living north of the QEW, but the services they require haven’t moved with them – yet. The challenge for the city and the seniors community is to align the services with where seniors live in the city.

If funding were available what would Veitch like to see – a swimming pool would be very nice to have.

When asked if having a public health nurse on site, a couple of hours each day a few days each week would make sense, Veitch wanted to know who would pay for it.  When it was suggested it would be cheaper for the hospital to have a nurse come to the Centre rather than have dozens of seniors clogging up the waiting rooms at Joe Brant  Veitch saw the wisdom in that.  Long term thinking isn’t on the agenda at the Seniors` Centre.

The Seniors have exclusive use of the space during each day.  The city gets to use it at night.

As one listen to Veitch and those that drop by for a few words, you quickly realize that they certainly understand and have no problems wielding their political clout.  “Mike Wallace is a fine fellow” says Veitch.  “He takes good care of us and we take good care of him.”

That’s not something that just Wallace does; Patti Torsney, a former Burlington MP,  did the same thing when she was the Member of Parliament for the city.  The seniors will go with whoever offers them the best deal; something the politicians never want to forget.  With the number of seniors rising every year – politicians at every level are going to have to come to terms with the fact that at some point they are going to have to say no.  The seniors don’t believe they have the courage to do that.

Next Saturday registration for the fall programs begins and Veitch expects the place to once again become a hub of happy people enjoying their retirement years.  Joe Veitch is certainly enjoying his.

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