ACS, town co-host town hall meeting for seniors



By Ron Giofu


Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and the Town of Amherstburg reached out to the senior community in an effort to try and hear what they want and need.

A town hall meeting was held at the Libro Centre with about 40 people in attendance. Attendees were asked what they required in terms of medical care, recreational amenities and accessibility among other topics.

“This started in late 2017,” explained Rick Daly, the town’s manager of recreation services.

Daly said there was a stakeholder information meeting in which the town and ACS tried to find out what is being offered to seniors and what services are still needed. How the gaps in services get eliminated is part of the process, he added.

“We need to find opportunities for all of our residents,” he said.

Kathy DiBartolomeo, executive director with ACS, said the agency is often approached about what they can do for seniors. ACS offers such programming as lunches, transportation and programs where seniors are called and visited along with programs such as Meals on Wheels. They will continue to work with the town on additional programming, she indicated, and that consultations with the community will continue.

Amherstburg Community Services executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo fields a question from a resident as part of the seniors town hall meeting ACS held in conjunction with the Town of Amherstburg Aug. 16.

“These talks will be ongoing,” she said. “It’s not a one-off meeting.”

Ideas ranges from bringing in medical specialists, having exercise classes, educational sessions for singles and couples on such topics as cooking, alternative medicine, year-round pickleball, and having a community garden. Stephanie Thomson commented that she moved to Amherstburg from Toronto and was lucky to find someone to help her get acclimated to the town.

Thomson suggested a service where people could socialize and introduce new residents to the town.

“Social isolation will kill you,” she said.
John Miceli, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO), said he saw a greeter service manned by volunteers when he visited Chicago. He believes something similar could work in Amherstburg.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the town,” said Miceli.

Miceli added that the town is planning on erecting electronic signage at the north and south ends of town and that will help advertise additional town programs. He believes those signs will be erected by late fall.

Questions over the seniors hub at the former St. Bernard School site were raised, with Miceli stating “we’ve got some major partners” that are coming. However, he said he can’t share a lot of details at the moment.

Local naturalist Greg Nemeth speaks about his hobby at the Aug. 16 town hall session for seniors at the Libro Centre.

Miceli added that a partnership with the Greater Essex County District School Board will allow for “a tremendous amount of opportunities for seniors programming” at the new public high school that will be erected on 15 acres of Centennial Park.

Greg Nemeth, a local naturalist, spoke on how he took up that hobby when he retired and was diagnosed with epilepsy. He suggested a boardwalk on lands within the Big Creek watershed would be useful, as he regularly walks and photographs wildlife in the area between Thomas Road and Concession 3 North.

“When you are walking with nature, it’s a different experience,” said Nemeth. “It’s calm. It’s relaxing. Put a boardwalk in for seniors. They’ll really enjoy it.”

ACS and the town hosted seniors expo earlier this year, DiBartolomeo pointed out, adding they hope it gets “bigger and better” every year.

“Every year, we hope to expand it,” she said.

Daly added he would like to see an advisory committee for seniors established, one that would report to town council. He said an advisory committee would have “the ear of council.”

Seniors get introduction to golf



By Ron Giofu


Thanks to a golf professional, several people within the community got a chance to try the game for the first time.

Matt Bodde met with a group of golfing beginners in the Libro Centre’s indoor sports field. It was mainly seniors who turned out the first time but he is offering paid courses in January and April.

“This was a free clinic for a new program we’re bringing to the Libro Centre,” explained Bodde. “We’re doing it in here with softer balls.”

Local golf pro Matt Bodde demonstrates a swing during a recent workshop at the Libro Centre. Courses will be offered in January and April.

Bodde, who is the golf pro at Seven Lakes Golf Course in LaSalle, said he approached Libro Centre staff about starting a new golf program with the aim, in part, to get seniors interested in golfing. However, the course is designed for beginners and for those who need to “brush up on their golfing skills.”

Aspects of the course will include fitness, learning the basics of golf from the grip to the swing and video analysis as well.

“I worked in the United States for 30 years as a club pro,” added Bodde.

Bodde believes there will be a good turnout for the classes, which will be capped at ten people per class. People are asked to bring their own clubs, with required clubs for the first class being a wood, a seven-iron, a pitching wedge and a putter.

Winter classes are Jan. 17, 19, 24 and 26 from 10-11 a.m. Spring classes are April 11, 13, 18 and 20 from 10-11 a.m. The fees are $70.

People can register at the Libro Centre. Bodde asks that registration be done no later than 48 hours in advance to the session start date.

ACS teams with town for seniors roundtable



By Ron Giofu


A group of nearly a dozen service providers for seniors gathered at the Libro Centre last Wednesday morning to explain what they do.

Representatives from church groups, service clubs, senior-centric businesses and medical professionals gathered for the roundtable as part of a process to start networking and to have the town and Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) get a handle on what is out there.

“We know that in the future that the number of seniors will grow,” said ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. “We have to start planning now.”

Rick Daly, the town’s manager of recreation services, said the senior population is rapidly growing and that as of 2016, 16.4 per cent of Ontario’s population is 65-and-over. In Amherstburg, 18.1 per cent of the population is in that age group.

“Seniors now are more active than ever,” he said. “The question we want to answer is how do we support our senior population?”

DiBartolomeo said seniors want to be active and they were also trying to find out what barriers may exist that prevent some seniors from being active. She said they are trying to network with others, compile a database of senior services and continue to work together.

“Amherstburg is a jewel,” she said, though many groups continue to “work in silos.”

Service providers outlined concerns about transportation, educating people about what is out there, and accessible housing. There are those seniors who don’t want to be a burden and others that simply don’t know what is out there, it was explained.

ACS and the town held a roundtable with senior service providers. ACS community awareness/fundraising co-ordinator Austin Tyrrell, ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo and town manager of recreation services Rick Daly gather input from Heather Vandenham from Seasons Amherstburg.

Daly said grant opportunities are being explored and that the town is pursuing a master aging plan. There is hope of possibly developing the former St. Bernard School into a “hub” for seniors activities.

“There are a lot of opportunities coming Amherstburg’s way,” said Daly. “It’s an exciting time to be a senior because of the opportunities.”

In the short-term, additional racks could be put up around the Libro Centre to house pamphlets with seniors activities.

Service providers and groups that were not able to attend last Wednesday morning’s roundtable can stop by Amherstburg Community Services’ office at 179 Victoria St. S. and let them know what they offer and what they do for seniors.

For more information on Amherstburg Community Services, call 519-736-5471 or visit DiBartolomeo can be contacted directly at


Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors makes return with help from Caesars Windsor



Special to the RTT


After returning from a brief trip out east last December, Carol, 80, came home to find a bright red Christmas stocking filled with gifts at her front door.

This year, thanks to a donation of $1,500 from Caesars Windsor as well as continued support from Amherstburg and LaSalle residents, Carol will be one of over 300 seniors to receive a gift from the Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors program.

The Stuff-a-Stocking for Seniors program, which is organized by Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), collects small gifts from the community and puts them into Christmas stockings that are then delivered to seniors in Amherstburg and LaSalle. According to ACS executive director, Kathy DiBartolomeo, the aim of this program is to reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation faced by seniors.

Amherstburg Community Services is currently accepting donations to help “Stuff-A-Stocking for Seniors” this holiday season. The River Town Times staff stuffed stockings and mugs last week to bring to ACS for the event. Donations will be accepted until Nov. 29 at their 179 Victoria St. location between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Fridays. They are looking for toiletries, winter wear, homemade cards, stockings and monetary donations.

“Senior loneliness and isolation is a serious problem that can be highlighted during the holidays,” DiBartolomeo said.

DiBartolomeo continued by saying that the contribution from Caesars Windsor, which will also be sending staff to help pack and sort the stockings, makes a huge difference.

“I cannot tell you just how much we appreciate their contribution – this will allow us to help more seniors than ever before,” she said.

After her experience last year, Carol says that the impact of this program is certainly felt by individuals like her.

“It actually made me cry because I had lost my husband only months before that, so the holidays were a difficult time for me,” Carol explained. “It was truly wonderful to open that up and see all the love that was packed inside. I’ll never forget it, and I made sure that every item in that stocking went to good use.”

ACS will be collecting donations for the program until Nov. 29. Small gifts such as gloves, socks, scarves, toiletries, small treats and candies, Christmas stockings, and homemade holiday cards, as well as monetary donations are needed and can be dropped off at ACS’ office at 179 Victoria St S in Amherstburg.

Drop-off boxes will also be set up at the Vollmer Complex in LaSalle and the Libro Credit Union Centre in Amherstburg. Seniors can be signed up by themselves or by others by calling ACS at 519-736-5471.

Town seeing grant funding for new Master Aging Plan



By Ron Giofu


Town council is pursuing provincial funding to help support a plan geared towards senior citizens.

Council authorized and supported administration to submit a grant application for funding under the Seniors Community Grant Program to the Ministry of Seniors Affairs for the preparation of a Master Aging Plan and implementation program. Council also agreed to support the required in-kind contribution to fund the preparation of the Master Aging Plan and implementation programs through the 2018 budget sessions.

Councillor Diane Pouget introduced the motion, and pointed out the town’s growing senior population.

“According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 data for the town, adults 55-and-over represent 34 per cent of the town’s population,” said Pouget. “In fact, adults between the ages of 55-64 represent 16 per cent of the town’s population alone. Due to the current and increasing number of seniors in our community, the town has proposed the development of a Master Aging Plan to be initiated in 2018.”

Pouget pointed out that the town has embarked on initiatives in the past year that include the community strategic plan. She said the town is currently undertaking studies towards enhancing the settlement areas and ensuring quality of life for Amherstburg residents.

The Master Aging Plan will assist the town in identifying what types of services and programs should be offered locally. That includes what seniors need and could also include what type of infrastructure could be necessary.

“It is something that is really required,” Pouget said of the plan. “It is very important.”