Help change lives like Ollie’s in Winnipeg now.
When Ollie Kertesz lost her husband John 15 years ago her life became dark with isolation and loneliness. They had been married 40 years.
“After he passed away I was just very depressed. We used to do everything together. I still miss him terribly.”
About two years after losing John, Ollie found out about Good Neighbours Active Living Centre (GNALC), a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency that helps seniors find friendship and stay active.
“I felt it as soon as I went in there. I like to talk to people, and listen to them. We had a nice table of people and it was really great. I thought to myself, ‘I can hardly wait to go back again.’”
GNALC increases the independence and well-being of older adults through programs and in-house services that address physical, social, intellectual and spiritual needs. Participant-driven outreach programs also connect with single people who are often widowed and have no social network.
Ollie has been attending GNALC every week since that first visit, and she has made many new friends. She attends the Social Lunch Program which includes activities like Yahtzee and bingo. But it’s the opportunity to talk and connect with people that she loves.
“I can hardly wait to go back again.”
“Most of the people are widows and widowers. It’s so nice to talk to people who understood and know what you’re going through.”
Ollie now sees the importance of social connection for anyone feeling isolated or grieving a loss.
“You have to be with people, you can’t shut yourself up. Even if it’s just once a week to go for lunch and be with them, you know? It sure made a difference in my life, boy, I’ll tell you.”
These days Ollie volunteers through the centre to call people on their birthday. It’s a chance to talk, and shine her own light into what may be a dark time for someone else.
“You get connected with people that have been through many things in their lives too, you know? Bad things, happy things, and it’s good. It sort of uplifts you.”
She is grateful for the centre, the community it brings together, and the opportunity she has to help others.
“I like to make people laugh, and it’s good to laugh. There are a lot of lonely old people in this city, you know?”
“I thank God that people can support United Way, for a lot of good reasons, really.”