The Clearbrook Seniors Citizen Society was founded in 1975 as a society for seniors under the leadership of Abram A. Olfert. He was concerned about the lack of activities for retired men in the Clearbrook area and wished to organize useful activities for them. In the following year the name was changed to the Clearbrook Golden Age Society (CGAS). Discussions ensued resulting in the opening of a used furniture and appliance store in February 1977. This store was located in the Cedar Park Shopping Centre and was a place where retirees could use their skills and energies to refurbish used items for sale. The proceeds were to go to MCC and later also to other organizations. In 1988 the ownership of this store was transferred to MCC BC.
In the meantime a variety of other programs and activities for seniors were developed including a workshop, bus tours and the making of crafts. During the late 1970’s the Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI) was planning to build a school at a new location and so their current two acre plot and buildings were for sale. In 1980 an agreement was made for the purchase of the MEI Junior High buildings and the new auditorium and in the following years these premises were renovated and occupancy proceeded. A Provincial Government grant of $150,000 was matched by local fund raising efforts so that the purchase could be made. In the following years this centre became the hub of a wide variety of activities designed to serve seniors and to provide activities in which seniors could participate. Some of the programs included a kitchen to serve hot meals a few times per week, a coffee shop, book binding, picture framing, woodworking and a variety of other activities. Some of the tenants included the BC Mennonite Historical Society, M2/W2, various other Christian ministries, an Adult Achievement Centre and Helping Hands.
The CGAS began planning a further expansion of services to seniors and by 1997 the old buildings had been demolished and a new tower had been built appropriately named the Garden Park Tower. This complex includes the CGAS community centre offices, a large dining hall, a fine coffee shop and many other services which seniors and others may use. The tower contains 111 residential suites and also a commercial floor which houses doctor’s offices, a pharmacy, M2/W2 offices, a MHS of BC centre, WE Care and other services. The vision is to provide services to seniors to make it possible for them to live independently as long as their health allows.
Leadership of CGAS has been vital since its inception. The vision and drive of Abram A. Olfert as Chairman in the earlier years was succeeded by Allan Hiebert in the 1980’s, with some brief interruptions, right into the 2000’s. Of course there have been many Board members and a host of volunteers who have contributed to the ongoing work and development of this Society.
Sources; The Invisible Hand by Abram A. Olfert; Footprints of Compassion edited by Helen Lescheid.
(from MHS of BC Archives).