By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
When Al Gordon walked through the doors of the Ancaster Senior Achievement Centre in 1993, he had no idea it would lead to a two-decade commitment to the Alberton Road home-away-from home for people 55-plus.
“My wife and I just wanted to learn how to play bridge well,” said Gordon. “We were fascinated if we ever managed to match two hands.”
Gordon’s initial inquiry of senior centre staff about bridge programming led to seats on committees, the board and finally chair during an unprecedented period of growth that saw a $1.75-million expansion of the centre.
Gordon was presented this spring with the Leadership Award at the 2014 Hamilton Senior of the Year gala. The award recognizes a senior volunteer who acts as a role model and inspires commitment from others to reach their goals. Nearly 600 people attended the gala evening in June at Michelangelo Banquet and Convention Centre. Sixty seniors were nominated for awards in nine categories.
“I was humbled and fascinated by the number of excellent people that were in the crowd that night,” Gordon said. “I think the award could have gone to anybody and everybody. I am always surprised by the number of volunteers and how hard they work.”
Gordon, however, makes it abundantly clear that his award was achieved with the help of many hands.
“There are a lot of great (ASAC 55+) members and a great board. It is not a one-man show, it’s a 200-person type of show,” he said.
An Ancaster resident since 1989, Gordon graduated from the University of Toronto and served as an aerospace engineer in the Royal Canadian Air Force before embarking on a career in the field of college education.
Now 83 years old, Gordon pops into ASAC 55+ almost daily to conduct whatever task is necessary to keep the centre running smoothly.
“It’s not just a building,” he said “People are coming and utilizing the programs and it feels like a second home and we are their family. It’s not just an institution.”
ASAC has 1,100 members who participate in more than 200 programs, ranging from cards and woodworking, to Wii games and tai chi.
Gordon sees the centre as a way of keeping seniors healthier and happier.
“I think it is really important for seniors to have a place to go and break away from any isolation pattern they may be developing,” he said. “Some members, when they join, you see them opening up like a flower as new friendships develop.”
Along with his involvement In ASAC 55+, Gordon has been a member of the city’s seniors advisory committee for six years and a member of the Older Adult Centres Association of Ontario. He received that organization’s Leadership Award in 2013.
—This is the final in a series of stories on the local recipients of the City of Hamilton’s 2014 Senior of the Year Awards.