Bernard Betel Centre, Recipient

Recreational activities, special events, travel and celebratory meals are how many people nourish their need for creative expression and social connection. But for some older adults, these opportunities may be difficult to come by, which can lead to feelings of isolation. The Bernard Betel Centre in Toronto, Ontario, hopes to prevent this by providing multilingual programs to encourage a healthy, active and creative life for adults aged 55 and older. Starting with just a few programs in 1965, the centre has grown to become a staple in the community and provides dozens of arts classes, community outreach opportunities, health services, educational presentations and more. “We want to encourage creative living in a way that people are out there,” said Maria Lindgren, director of programs. “We want to provide a variety of things for people to be active.” Providing supports that meet specific needsWoman holding up orange pen with a logo. Additionally, the centre provides crucial supports for especially vulnerable older adults in the community, such as people with low-income or language barriers. The centre works intentionally to provide low-cost or free classes and opportunities as well as multilingual supports to help reduce or remove barriers that prevent these individuals from participating “We work a lot with newcomers to Canada,” Lindgren explained. “We offer language programs not available elsewhere, such as Ukrainian or Russian supports. We want to provide culturally sensitive programs for them to meet new friends and feel less isolated.” The centre also works closely with the Jewish population in Toronto and offers a kosher café and meal delivery program, Hebrew Club, and supports specifically for Holocaust survivors, such as Café Europa, a luncheon program. How promotional pen giveaways help draw people in Like many organizations, the centre had to scale back during the pandemic due to health concerns. But since it reopened for in-person activities and programs, staff and volunteers have had difficulty attracting new members. Promotional pen giveaways imprinted with the centre’s logo make raising awareness much easier. Staff and volunteers hand out the pens at trade shows and other community events to promote the variety of programs offered and to remind people that they’re there to help. The organization also gave the pens away as a gift to government officials and fundraisers who toured the centre. “They were appreciative of a memento that’s quite small and easy,” she said. “They help ensure they don’t forget about us.”

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