It was 34 years ago that members of our Ponoka town council, the Alberta Hospital (Centennial Centre) and officials of the local mental health and medical services gathered together to discuss the exciting introduction of a community Clubhouse program. With the keen cooperation and support of a great number of people a building was secured in a former laundry along Highway 2 in the north end of town, and the initial Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse became a reality in 1984.
With a lot of leg-work and planning the staff, support personnel, and programs were carefully put into place, and the first Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse Society and board was formed to set the plans and goals for the future that would strive to enable and encourage past and present consumers of mental health services to have the opportunity to live independent and self-sufficient lives as members of the community. Needless to say, for over three very busy decades the clubhouse has been a tremendous success, with hundreds of members, old and new from all walks of life being able to seek out the safe year round environment of the Rising Sun Clubhouse, while enjoying an excellent and active and fun program of social, educational, recreational, and employment activities in their ‘home away from home.’
The clubhouse work program
I had the great pleasure of being a part of a great bunch of dedicated staff at the Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse from 1994 to 2004 and will always remember a meeting in 1996 with members, staff, board, management, and A.H.P. and mental health personnel, where it was unanimously decided to start a weekday work program to serve the community.
The Alberta Hospital was extremely helpful in getting the program started, providing us with lots of jobs cleaning up their grounds as well as supplying our first mowers and equipment, which was graciously serviced and stored by the friendly ‘garden gang’ crew led by Charlie Bowie. In the beginning we hauled our members around to the job sites in our little hospital car, with the tools, grass clippings, junk, and all the rest towed behind in a rickety old trailer that we had purchased for $15. Right from the start the community and districts were extremely accepting and appreciative of our work program, dropping in or calling the clubhouse and asking us to take on a growing variety of year-round jobs such as grass mowing, snow removal, yard clean-up, bottle collection, helping members move into new homes, and on and on. As well as supporting the work program, families, individuals, merchants, and organizations from throughout the community also offered kindly donations of furniture, books, clothes, puzzles, games, and so much more, which was greatly appreciated by the members and staff. It wasn’t long before the Town of Ponoka came on board and offered the Rising Sun Clubhouse work program the opportunity to take over the community blue box program as well as assisting with clean-up and sorting at the new recycle depot along Railway Street. The next very progressive step for the eager clubhouse work crew and staff team was taking on the massive collection of picking up cardboard and recycles from all over the community, which would require a brand new 14 passenger van and sturdy trailer, kindly provided by Will’s Welding. Each weekday rain or shine, sleet or snow, the eager staff and work crew would head out and about in the community to pick up many packed loads for the recycle depot as well as do other jobs. Then when the trailer was unhooked at the end of the day the van would serve as transportation to and from the clubhouse for special social activities, fabulous meals, and outings during after-noons, evenings, and weekends, 7 days a week.
Along the way the weekly Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse work program team grew to over 50 members, all of whom took great pride and joy in their efforts and skills, as well as making many new friends at the clubhouse and around town, as well as being dedicated and accepted citizens of their community. All present or new members of the clubhouse who wished were given a fair opportunity to serve on the work-program, doing outside or inside jobs, being paid an equal sum for the hours that they worked and of course everyone would really look forward to pay-day in the middle of each month. Right from the beginning the rapidly growing list of members also looked forward to working in the laundry and around the clubhouse, as well as volunteering for bingo, garage sales, and various events around town, as well as countless social activities, functions, and outings. Yearly gala events in which the members, staff, and public took part included the annual silent auction and dance, camping at Lake Pofianga, Christmas parties and choir, birthday parties, Wednesday lunch with Bob Hepp and friends, and on and on.
As always the Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse continues to welcome members and guests at a steady pace, the welcome mat is always out, and the coffee pot is usually on. Executive Director Amanda Henderson-Kada explained during our interview that the longstanding community work program at the clubhouse is still going strong, is operating on a self-sustaining basis, and welcomes inquiries for all sorts of jobs at phone: 403-783-5810 or drop in for a visit. The Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse Society is also looking forward to hosting a charity golf tournament on Friday, June 15 at the Ponoka Golf Club and everyone is welcome to take part. Registrations will open at 11:30 a.m., and the gala event will include 18 holes of Texas Scramble with a power cart starting at 1 p.m., and will feature a light lunch, prizes, steak dinner, and silent auction, with all proceeds going to support the future ongoing efforts of the work program. More information is available by calling Amanda at 403-783-5810 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.