Killaloe – History Calling is taking place this Thursday and again in October offering seniors a chance to share memories of the village they call home and stories of the past.
“History Calling came about to help engage older adults and adults with disabilities in social programming that can be enjoyed from the comfort of home,” explained Amanda Labbe, program coordinator of Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (Renfrew County). “All that is needed is a telephone – it does not require a computer or transportation so barriers to participation are reduced.”
Taking place on Thursday, September 23 and again on Tuesday, October 12, this is a free program provided by Seniors’ Centre Without Walls.
“We would like to celebrate the history of Renfrew County. The pilot program focusing on Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards is, hopefully, the first in a series where we will highlight different areas of the county in upcoming program guides,” she said.
The response so far in the Killaloe area has been very enthusiastic, she noted.
“On Saturday I was at the farmers market talking to vendors and patrons and there was a lot of interest,” she said.
Ms. Labbe explained while Seniors’ Centre Without Walls has really taken off during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of the traditional programing for seniors was closed, it began before the pandemic.
“It started in California and then moved to Winnipeg,” she noted, adding it was functioning in the county well before COVID-19. “The original goal was to bring social activity to seniors and adults with disabilities who were more vulnerable.”
Even before the pandemic there were adults with disabilities and seniors who were limited in how they could access traditional programing, so the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls worked well to provide social programing for them. In COVID this need increased as isolation was a real problem for seniors and others.
“Because our senior centres shut down and were not doing things in person, Seniors’ Centre Without Walls became the go-to format,” she said. “It is telephone-based so you don’t need the internet or a computer or transportation.”
During the last year-and-a-half there have been more people reaching out to the program, she said.
“It has increased a fair bit and the awareness in knowing this is an option has increased,” she said.
The activities are all group activities and when a person calls in there will be others on the phone line for a group chat, she explained. For the History Calling event, if people are not comfortable calling and using the number key, then they could call before the program and receive a call back on the day of the event, she said.
Ms. Labbe said she received wonderful cooperation for this event from both Chris Neff, the community development officer for Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township, and Lynne Postill of the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society. She said both were very enthusiastic about the project and have some stories which will help start the discussion on Thursday.
“We have stories to generate conversation, but the idea is for them (the seniors and program participants) to talk,” she said.
The program will also be recorded to allow for the historical stories to be documented for posterity, she added. If participants don’t wish to have their stories written down, they just have to say so, she said.
Ms. Postill said participating in something like this is a natural move for the local Heritage and Ecology Society.
“Being an older person myself, we all love to talk about change and history,” she said.
There has been a renewed interest in history and talking about past times during the COVID outbreak as well, she feels.
“Because of being locked in, people have taken a real interest in talking about the past and history,” she said.
In advertising the program there are already some tidbits about Killaloe which many locals might not know. For example, Killaloe was originally called Fort McDonnell. Another “thinking topic” is James Bonfield and his contributions to the village.
Ms. Postill said while she knows some things about these topics, she will be curious to see what other tidbits locals can tell her.
“James Bonfield had the timber limits for all Killaloe and he gave it the name,” she said.
However, just why he chose Killaloe is still a mystery.
“I have my thoughts on why he did that,” she said. “He did not come from Killaloe in Ireland.”
She said while she will share her thoughts during the phone in, she is eager for others to join in the conversation as part of History Calling.
“That is the kind of thing to talk about,” she said. “We want the seniors to tell their story.”
Having this in Killaloe is a great start, she believes, and will be part of another project to collect memories and stories from the community, she said.
“We are trying to get a history book with the stories of the seniors, so this is part of that start,” Ms. Postill said.
To participate in History Calling call 613-432-7691 or toll free 1-833-617-HELP (4357) to register to receive a call. The other option is to call the program directly by calling 1-800-669-6180 shortly before 2 p.m. Then, when prompted, enter passcode 161716 followed by the # key.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader