It began with an announcement by Mayor Don Cousens in the inaugural Council meeting of 1994 that Thornhill would have a seniors centre. Sites were explored without success in 1995 and 1996; Markham already had its grand seniors centre operated by the OAIA (Older Adults In Action). In 2001, Town staff reported that under an obligation for the Town to increase indoor recreation space, three centres needed to be expanded before 2006, to match population growth. In order to accommodate a modest seniors centre and therapeutic pool, Town staff recommended a significant expansion of the Thornhill Community Centre in 2004 and 2005, transferring allocated space from one of the other centers.
Following heated debate, and representation by prominent members of the newly-formed Organizing Committee of the Thornhill Seniors Club, Markham Council agreed to proceed in two stages, with the seniors centre first. On June 26 2003, Mayor Cousens tossed a square of sod from the stage of the Thornhill Community Centre to signal the start of construction.
On Monday June 14 2004, almost 12 months following the sod-turning, the ribbon was cut to formally launch the new Club, and four days of celebrations, music, meals, and tours, attended by hundreds each day. And on June 17 the new Centre was opened officially, followed by a reception attended by about 500.
A ‘Calling All Seniors’ column in the Thornhill Post of November 2002 kicked off the campaign to register names of those interested in forming a new seniors club. Personal invitations were mailed, inviting seniors to bring a friend or neighbour to a meeting to help form the club. 80 attended the first meeting; many signed on to the ‘seniors registry’. A series of newsletters were prepared and mailed to those on the ‘registry’, and to other prospects. A spring newsletter invited more to join, as did additional columns in the Thornhill Post, and articles in the Liberal newspaper. More than 100 came to the second large meeting, many again signing onto the ‘seniors registry’. The objective was to have 750 members by opening day for the new seniors centre. I addressed an audience at Glynnwood Retirement Residence, and enlisted support of representatives in all the large condominium buildings and St Luke’s Lodge to sign members onto the ‘seniors registry’.
At the second meeting, seniors were approached and asked to serve on an organizing committee to form a new club. By show of hands, we were granted permission to appoint members to this committee.
The Organizing Committee of what was soon named the Thornhill Seniors Club was formed in February 2003. The Golden 50’s club, with membership then of 150, had provided services to Thornhill seniors for more than 25 years. Their members were asked to permit us to simply grow their membership and services; they declined. The decision was made to build a new club.
One of the first tasks for the Organizing Committee was to urge Council to proceed with construction of the new seniors centre quickly. Duties were set out; a Constitution was developed, with a Policies and Procedures manual. Volunteers were organized; activities were organized; instructors were hired. Paid membership grew quickly beyond the 250 required for Markham Club status; Council recognized the Club officially in June 2003. 20 hours of weekly programming was squeezed into all available space in September 2003; this grew to 30 hours by January 2004. A new board was elected in May 2004, under rules set out in the new Constitution. Paid membership reached 1,045 by mid July 2004, with almost 250 participating each week.
The Club adopted a new logo in June 2004, and launched the Club officially on Monday June 14 2004. Seniors who had organized and operated many sports, cultural, and other activities for decades, now came together again in a new environment that we had earned. We had a sense that we had achieved something of historic proportion in Thornhill’s history. We spoke for Thornhill seniors; we provided a broad range of new activities, bringing people together, building bridges, brightening days for many. We had a special place that we would control and manage. And we had just started!
Written by Stan Daurio, Thornhill Seniors Club Organizing Committee & Director of Membership (2004)