LETTER: A brief history of Broader Horizons

Reader Joan Reichardt is a veteran of seniors' issues and services in Nelson

Re: “Nelson community decries Broader Horizons closure,” June 29

Let’s have a little history: Broader Horizons started 40 years ago as a Local Initiative Project, funded by the federal government. It was the brainchild of the senior public health nurse who was very aware of the numbers of isolated seniors being visited by public health. Shirley was also chair of the homemaker board.

I was the supervisor, so was part of the conception, application and implementation of the programme. It was designed as “an activation and socialization project.” The original staff were all young people on unemployment insurance. We learned and modified as we went, and when the federal funding ran out we had developed something too good to lose. So we went on the scrounge for money!

Homemaker service (home support) was funded by social services and our local supervisor came to the table and contrived a way of funding one staff person to keep going!

Referrals came from health, the hospital, doctors and the community and reinforced the need! We had use of a 1955 Volkswagen minivan, social services funded a driver, and we used volunteers extensively — in fact some of the clients were also volunteers! We operated from a number of locations, including St. Saviour’s hall and what is now Kiwanis Villa No. 3. At the time we were the only adult day service outside of the Lower Mainland, and uniquely, freestanding. At the time most such programmes were attached to a facility.

By 1978 long term care had been initiated, home support had come under health, and we eventually were funded by health, under my administration at Nelson and District Home Support Society.

In 1985 the society felt the need to have a single site for the numerous programmes we were operating. We purchased the former Kootenay Forest Products office (905 Gordon) for $90,000. The society did this with no support or funds from the provincial or federal governments — this was a community effort! We rented surplus space to pay the mortgage, needed renovations were completed with many, many, volunteers, as well as a grossly underpaid boss.

Donations were many and varied! From small contributions of a couple of dollars from our clients, to generous donations from service clubs, help from the city and regional district, we pulled it off and a very appreciated and successful asset to health care in the community was created. Not one piece of office equipment from desk to clip board was purchased! We acquired or borrowed everything we needed from various local sources!

Now Interior Health has decided it is of no importance, does not serve a useful purpose and can be discarded at a moments notice. Of course the clients attending have changed, and they are dealing with folks with more complex needs, but the program still works! Ask the people who have some respite from the constant care of a loved one, knowing they are in a safe and supportive place. Ask the clients how important the centre is to them, how they look forward to being with friends and care givers, who know them. Ask the dedicated volunteers who have faithfully served, every week and for many years. Ask the staff, who have cancelled their holidays and will work throughout the summer.

In my opinion, IHA is just a front for a callous and uncaring government, with no respect or regard for seniors. This latest act is despicable.

Joan Reichardt