In the beginning the aim was to create “a place of cheerfulness and comfort where older citizens could meet and share companionship, renew old interests or discover new ones, develop cultural interests, read, rest or just talk to friends, develop independence and feelings of usefulness and where they could supplement their daily intake of food at reasonable cost.”
Driven by the concerns of a committee formed of Anglican clergy, medical people and laymen, The Good Companions was begun in 1955. Service groups, individuals and volunteers lent support. The little group prospered and by 1957 membership had risen from the original 40 to over 500. Overcrowding and desire for a place of our own led to the first building. The site at 670 Albert was donated by Harold G. Vail and the building became a project of the Ottawa Kinsmen Club. That first building measured 6,000 square feet. Over the years, the popularity and need for the services offered led to expansion in two directions and we now have 36,000 square feet of building space.
The club was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1958 and in May of that year became a member of Community Chest (or the United Way as it is now known), opening the way for outside funding. Without a constant supply of volunteers, who over the years have put in hundreds of thousands of hours, and the outside help of such groups as the United Way, the City of Ottawa, Kiwanis and Kinsmen Clubs of Ottawa and the Government of Ontario, the constant growth of services offered to the community would not have been possible.
During the sixties and seventies, we were the first to offer many programs like Day Care (Monday and Wednesday) now our Adult Day Program, Foot Care, Friendly Visiting, Home Help and many services at the Centre (Repeat Performance – our nearly new shop, social and financial counseling, health promotion and hair care services). A New Horizons Grant, in 1973, helped establish the Seniors’ Reach-Out (a friendly visiting program for isolated seniors), our first home support program. Transportation and Home Assistance were aided by a new Home Help Project.
By the eighties membership had shot to over 1800, and every activity from recreation and education to the number of meals served had jumped; we needed more room. We began “Building for the Future” by applying for government support and started on the public fund-raising necessary. 1991 was the year of our great upheaval and the temporary move to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, where, in spite of adversities, Home Support Services were extended to seniors of the Chinese Centre and seniors residing in north-east Ottawa.
It was with great joy that we celebrated the opening of our newly-expanded and beautifully furnished Centre in September, 1992. In less than two years, we were able to pay off our mortgage. This is due to the support provided by the Provincial Government, the City of Ottawa, and the wonderful response from the community, our service club friends and the members and their families to our appeal for funds.
We have fulfilled the trusteeship passed on to us by our founders: The Good Companions is a bright, airy meeting place where seniors from every walk of life can participate in a multitude of social activities and receive many services so necessary to enhance their quality of life.