For almost 40 years, Barriere and the surrounding area has been well supported through the dedicated efforts of a group of local senior residents who have the best interests of their community at heart.
Before the Barriere and District Senior’s Society became a reality, in the mid 1970s the community was served by the Old Age Pensioner’s Organization (OAPO).
The Barriere division of the OAPO, Branch #135, received its charter in 1976, and held its first meeting in March of that year, meeting in the Barriere Secondary School library. The Lions Club then graciously offered its hall (rent free) for the OAPO meetings, so subsequent meetings were held there.
One of the main goals of any branch of the OAPO is to build seniors housing, and as a result the members in Barriere were soon busy researching on building seniors housing and fundraising for this.
In 1977 three members of the branch were selected, as well as some members from the Lions Club, to start the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence Society – which continues to this day.
This society undertook a housing project for seniors, and as a result of their efforts, in July of 1979, the 12 suite Yellowhead Pioneer Residence was opened in Barriere.
Besides fundraising, the OAPO also held many fun activities for its members. They held picnics, plant sales and bingos. They formed a choir called the ‘Second Timers’; which was active for over 20 years and gave performances from Clearwater to Kamloops. They organized carpet bowling, shuffleboard, crafts, luncheons, dinners, summer trips, and bazaars for the seniors.
The Barriere branch of the OAPO also gave out scholarships for students going on into the field of geriatrics.
They donated to the Food Bank, Snowaramas, Telethons, and to the Barriere Secondary School Band.
Unfortunately, by 1985 the Barriere OAPO membership was in decline, dropping to just 20 members.
Two years later, in 1987, membership was just $3 and was open to anyone of any age in an effort to bolster their numbers.
However, members of the group also found they were becoming disenchanted with the higher levels of the OAPO and were starting to consider leaving the organization.
In the fall of 1988 Barriere members voted to become independent of the OAPO, and at the same time they decided to form a new organization – the Barriere and District Seniors’ Society.
One of the Barriere and District Senior’s Society founding members, John Friesen, said it best in an article he wrote for the North Thompson Star/Journal at the time, “What was wanted was a place where they (the seniors) could meet and socialize on a daily basis. A place where they would feel comfortable and at ease in pursuing whatever activities that interested them.”
The society was then formed; and they received their charter on Jan. 1, 1989.
For the first few years the Society met at the Lions Hall, with the wish to build their own hall at some time in the future.
Plans were eventually drawn up for the building, and an arrangement made with the provincial government giving them permission to build the hall on provincial land.
The cost estimate at the time for the 4,000 square foot building was approximately $200,000.
The ground was broken on Apr. 20, 1993, and the building of their hall begun.
Except for the roofing and an odd item here and there, everything was done by volunteers.
The Society’s first official function in the hall was in 1994, the Mother’s Day Tea and Raffle.
Then on Sept. 10, 1994, the Barriere and District Seniors’ Society held its grand opening, with Vesa Underwood (then aged 95) cutting the ribbon. Underwood was the Society’s oldest member at the time.
That year, they had 107 paid up members.
To quote John Friesen again, “A particular source of pride for Society members is that the building was completed without borrowing a penny and with all bills paid.”
In subsequent years the Society has held square dances, breakfasts, bingos, plays, free pool, and weddings or funerals for members; which are just a few of the different kinds of activities that have taken place at the facility.
Today the Barriere and District Seniors’ Society are still active and continue to maintain the hall. Current board members say it is time to have a membership drive, not only to increase awareness of what the Society has to offer area seniors, but also to keep the group active – not just to fill executive positions, but to encourage new members to inject their suggestions and ideas for new activities that all can enjoy.
All seniors in and around Barriere are welcome to join this active group, and for the purposes of membership, a senior is anyone aged 50 and up. Society meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month, 3 p.m. at the Senior’s Hall in Barriere.
If you would like more information about membership and the Society, you are invited to call Monica Ireland, president, at 250-672-2477.