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Longtime Marpole Place shuts down

Services lost include weekly dinner, mobile food market and law clinic
Marpole Place’s weekly Thursday night dinner moved to St. Augustine’s Church last year after a flood made its longtime home at a former firehall unusable. The longtime community organization ceased operations Friday. Photo Dan Toulgoet

UPDATE: Marpole Place clients have some temporary and partial relief. At the Thursday night dinner on Nov. 13 at St. Augustine Anglican church on 8680 Hudson Street, Reverend Andrew Halladay told 50 guests that the church will take over running the Thursday dinner for a trial run starting Nov. 27 until Christmas. It will also host the weekly events of yoga, knitting and bridge, and the mobile food market. “This is a good opportunity for people in Marpole to retain and build their community,” he said. (The church’s own separate Thursday food bank and once a month Wednesday dinner will continue as usual.)  Meanwhile, the search for more government and private sector support in ongoing.

A service known by some as Marpole’s “community connection” for nearly three decades is folding. Yet some hope that its programs could be restored again if more funds and a new home are found.  

“It is with great sadness that we must close the doors at Marpole Place,” announced the Marpole Oakridge Area Council Society (MOACS) board of directors Oct. 30. “This is a difficult and emotional time for members, volunteers and staff alike, and we know many will have questions.”

This week the non-profit society will host its final Thursday night dinner and Friday breakfast, a popular tradition. Other lost services include the Forever Learning and Connected 55+ program, a free bread pick up, a mobile food market, computer training, exercises for seniors, board games, knitting and crafts, day trips, a law clinic, a walking club and fusion dances. Many called these social contacts valuable for isolated seniors, disabled, homeless and others.

“I will come to last dinner, bring my big hankie, and will be all choked,” said former MOACS president Gudrun Langolf. “I had no idea they were going to drop that bomb that day. I knew it was likely coming but not quite so fast.”

MOACS said it has not been sustainable for many years, and has only stayed open this long thanks to the dedication of staff and volunteers. The programs had been running at the former Marpole Firehall on West 70th Avenue since the mid-1980s, but after a major flood there last December, they moved to a temporary residence in the St. Augustine’s Church on Hudson Street, with a much higher monthly rent.

“Marpole Place ceasing operations — a terribly sad day,” tweeted the Marpole Business Improvement Association. “Huge gap in services for seniors, families.”

Several community groups are meeting this month to discuss how to respond to the loss, BIA director Claudia Laroye said. “Some potential things could be seeking emergency city funds, approaching the South

Vancouver Neighbourhood House to take over some of the programs, and identifying other potential community partners.”

“We’re grateful for the outpouring of support from the community since the announcement,” said MOACS board member Farida Barber. She said the society had three streams of income — a savings account, grants, and renting space to other groups in the former firehall. None of these was enough to carry the programs, even after MAOCS’ recent fundraising and cost cutting, and two staffers and a cook will be dismissed next month.

Some of the regular visitors to last week’s Friday morning breakfast were much saddened by the impending closure. “We are losing an important part of our neighbourhood,” said Lou Grahn, 78, who has been coming here for 30 years for the card games and computer training. Sue Service, who uses a wheelchair, said she will donate $1,000 from her inheritance to try to keep it going, because her mother enjoyed playing bridge and the day trips, while her 19-year-old son comes to the meals and plays trumpet there.

“The trend now is for governments to download these programs onto non-profits and make them compete and run after money,” said Langolf. “It’s outrageous. Service agencies cannot do it alone. All the people who have worked for Marpole Place over the past 30 years have really been kicked in the face. But my Pollyanna view is that out of some miserable situations, something good comes out, and I hope that’s the situation here.”