Helping Hands seniors group embracing life

Helping Hands of Brinston, a seniors group, began meeting in 1974 at the old hall in Brinston. In 2012, almost 40 years later, the group continues to gather, but now meet at Matilda Hall and refer to themselves as the Helping Hands of Matilda.

According to group President Lorne Strader, Helping Hands meets the first Wednesday of every month at Matilda Hall in Dixon’s Corners.

He explained that the original group lobbied for the building of Matilda Hall and raised $20,000 for the cost. The “new” hall opened in 1978, and the group moved in with the agreement that they use the hall one day per month, rent-free.

Strader, a life-long resident of Brinston, often organizes the meeting’s entertainment. Whether the entertainment falls into the category of informative speaker or lively musical performance, Strader takes his task seriously.

On December 6, 2012, for example, the Helping Hands seniors enjoyed the comedic jokes and festive singing of the local OPP Auxiliary’s Coppertones.

At the last meeting on March 7th, the group was treated with a performance by two guitar-playing songsters, Bill Horner and Ralph Jollotta. Strader is hoping to have the fire marshal visit for the next meeting on April 4th. 

Seniors from all over the area, in and outside of South Dundas, meet to chat, share information, catch up on news, have a little lunch, and enjoy some entertainment. 

The 12 o’clock luncheon is a pot luck deal which, according to Strader, “turns out good every time.” Each attendee brings something for the feast and Corrie Byker of Iroquois makes the soup.

In addition to bringing an item for the luncheon, each member drops $2 into a basket along with their name. After the feast, two names are drawn and those two receive their money back.

Things aren’t just all fun and games, however. Members also take care of group “business” at the beginning of the meeting, including the production of cards for local seniors who are ill and unable to attend the gathering.

The business portion of the meeting generally begins around 11:15 a.m. with the singing of Oh Canada. Jean VanGilt of Chesterville performs the duties of secretary.

Following the national anthem, Treasurer Doris Stewart of Iroquois, provides a financial report.

Birthdays, anniversaries, “get well cards” come next, followed by a period of devotion with scripture and prayer.

With the saying of grace before lunch, the business portion of the meeting comes to an end.

At the March 7th meeting, Strader talked about his great aunt Nelda Madeline (Irvine) Willis who passed on January 26th at the age of 103 years old. 

He pointed out that Willis’ mother, Ida Gilson was a sister to his grandfather, Charles Gilson, a blacksmith in Brintson for over 70 years.

Strader’s admiration for his aunt’s zest for life came through loud and clear. Willis, while in her 70s, traveled the world extensively visiting places like  China, Bali, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Thailand, and more.

In a memoriam honouring Willis, she was quoted saying that “people do have many  highs and lows in their lives. I do not believe I ever took the time to consider if any of the projects would be in a high or low category. I always seemed to be catapulted into the next round. There was sure to be someone or something waiting in the wings.”

Strader’s aunt’s philosophy of life exemplifies what Helping Hands seems to be all about: embracing life in its senior years by enjoying each day,  each moment, each experience, and each person who enters, as it comes.

“For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress, and as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Helping Hands of Matilda has 62 paid members. Membership costs just $5 per year. Membership, however, is not a prerequisite for attending meetings. Anyone over the age of 50 is welcome to attend, said Strader, “bring something to eat, put it on the table and you can eat with us.”

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