Saint Columba House Gala to celebrate more than 100 years of community in Pointe St. Charles
Saint Columba House will be holding a gala fundraiser on April 26 to celebrate more than 100 years of community sharing in Pointe St. Charles. Canadian soul diva Sylvie DesGroseilliers will be the star attraction at the annual gala that helps to raise money for community programs for the residents of Pointe St. Charles. “It’s an opportunity to showcase some of our programs, meeting people in the community without whom this wouldn’t happen,” says Lisa Byer-de Wever the new executive director of the venerable charitable institution in the southwest borough known as “The Pointe”. “Not only is this an opportunity for us to meet them, but for everyone to interact with each other.”
Saint Columba House is an outreach ministry of the United Church of Canada established in 1926 to help people struggling through the Great Depression. In the 1950’s it worked alongside local residents when the closure of the Lachine Canal caused widespread factory closures and job losses. In the 1960’s and 70’s it continued to work with residents in the Pointe developing innovative programs in the field of health and social services with an additional focus on women’s empowerment as women’s roles were changing in the home and society. Today Saint Columba House continues to speak out on issues of public policy taking a strong stand to defend and work alongside the unemployed, those who are intellectually challenged, the elderly, people with physical and mental health problems, and children from low-income families.
For Byer-de Wever this will be her first fundraising gala for Saint Columba House one she is very much looking forward to as she replaces the outgoing director Rev. Patricia Lisson. The energetic 53 year old who describes herself as a “student minster” decided to embark upon a new course in mid-life and began studying for the ordained ministry. “God just wouldn’t let me go,” she says laughing. Stressing that she’s not a “young chick” she says that sometimes she likes to think of herself this way. She will be bringing a whole new energy to her vocation as director of the longstanding mission in the community of Pointe St. Charles. “We will celebrate over 100 years. That’s quite a legacy to walk in.”
She is particularly please that DesGroseilliers will be headlining the Women in Soul gala. DesGroseilliers, along with a quartet of musicians, will pay tribute to the great Black divas who have inspired so many women with their soulful explorations of life and love in music. Fresh off the plane from Winnipeg – Byer-de Wever has been completing her studies out-of-province – she has already met with DesGroseilliers. “I am extremely moved by our conversation,” she says. “We share similar stories and both have a passion for justice.”
For the incoming director it’s all about sharing community and not just delivering social programs important as these are. A case in point involves the seniors’ program. Saint Columba House’s lunch program provides meals for between 110-135 people of all ages every day. However, many of the seniors who once volunteered can’t get out so the center’s volunteers must come to them. “Our team spends time with seniors. They leave on a Friday and come back on Monday. There are literally spider webs on the doors because no one has crossed the threshold,” she says. “This is both horrific and meaningful.” This sobering fact is reflected in the 2016 Census from Statistics Canada. It is a clarion call to action. “We are reviewing it. There are huge gaps in the delivery of services to Pointe St. Charles.”
“Breaking the isolation of seniors is key,” she says. The center has a Pen Pals program for children that matches them with seniors to foster community sharing. In September Saint Columba House is hoping to obtain a technology grant so the kids can Skype with their matched person. “We’re moving from beyond the page to real life,” Byer-de Wever says.
Saint Columba’s program isn’t limited to helping disadvantaged seniors but has fun and interesting activities for all seniors. Deborah Lefort the publicist for Saint Columba House who retired from a long and successful career at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recently took a look at the activities for seniors. “There are a couple of events that are very interesting,” she says. “It’s a great community.”
Saint Columba House Annual Gala
Tickets $100 ($80 charitable receipt) dinner included