Building Community at QCC

Building community is an integral part of QCC’s mission. To help foster this sense of community, we launched ‘Connecting Matters!’ , a program that was made possible through funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP).

The goal of the program being to connect our members over the age of 60 with one another through virtual programming in Windsor, London, Thunder Bay and Toronto. With the help of our passionate members, we are able to offer webinars on a variety of topics, virtual exercise tips, virtual book clubs and virtual coffee time chats. 

We were honoured to sit down for a Q&A with two of these members, Mara Conrad and Walter Grieve, who are taking part in the ‘Connecting Matters!’ Coffee Time Chats.  

Mara Conrad
Mara Conrad has had a career in the public service for over 36 years. Following her retirement, Mara continues to give back to the community and public service through continued active volunteer work and her strong advocacy for the QCC.  

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at the QCC?  

I’d like to consider myself an active member. I have experience with leadership and governance in  my previous role as a Director on the QCC Board of Directors. I was heavily involved  then,  but I’m still always advocating for QCC because I believe it has a very meaningful purpose for its members. For example, with ‘Connecting Matters!’ it provides the opportunity to meet new people and gain new experiences, which is what I’m all about. 

When did you join the QCC? 

My membership was automatic. I was a public servant working in the government of Ontario for 36 ½ years. I believe you used to become a member once you hit 25 years of service back then. A lot has changed now, I think for the better. I believe 25 years was a barrier to be honest, because who works in the same position for 25 years anymore? Not too many people have that privilege, so it’s nice that it’s now open to members upon gaining employment in the public service, in addition to the not-for profit and broader public sector.   

Why volunteer? 

I was always a goal setter even when I was active in the workforce. I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to continue to be active and set goals in retirement. That was eleven years ago, and I’ve maintained that goal. I wanted to continue the professional aspect of my career, but in a community-type of way. I always like to give back because I felt very privileged to work in the public sector. I want to contribute what I felt I’ve received throughout my career. I also always worked with the public and am a people-person.  

What’s your favourite part about Coffee Time Chats?  

I think the part about connecting with people, listening to their experiences and their perspectives about current and relevant topics.  At the last coffee chat here in Windsor, we were online for an hour with the moderator, but after the call was completed, we stayed on the line for another 50 minutes. I also thought it was a new and adventurous initiative. I participate because I’m committed to the QCC, have a passion for the members and staff, also for the social element to stay stimulated, active, and for the fun of it!   

Do you have any advice for people who might have hesitation about getting involved? 

I would say have an open mind and give it a try. The QCC is very member centered, it’s focused on meeting member needs and growing its membership.  It is a very accessible organization and has many offerings for members such as educational webinars, book clubs, events, and one of the most popular amongst members is the wide variety of discounts it offers, from electronics, clothing, savings on travel, and so on. My experience has been with involvement comes personal growth and experience. You might come out of it a better person with new information that you can take to different parts of your life. That’s what I found with the QCC. I think it makes me a better person, more well-rounded and provides me with many opportunities that I would otherwise not have. I did get family members involved too, my husband and son are members now. My son is actually one of the moderators for the Coffee Time Chats and he’s really enjoying it!  To watch my son in action, carrying out his role in such an engaging way, makes me very proud of him. He uses the website and the discounts and is realizing all the perks of being a member.    

Can you tell us about a time you truly felt a part of the community? 

One of the fondest memories I have was when QCC held the AGM in Ottawa. I was the lead from the Board on planning that AGM back when they weren’t virtual. I brought along three other QCC members with me and we drove up to Ottawa.  We had so much fun. It was very rewarding because of all the planning that went into it. It was a challenge for me as I was here in Windsor, ten hours away from Ottawa, not knowing what’s available locally in terms of resources or support. I did a lot of deep diving and digging and found a whole community there that was very helpful in assisting me. There have been so many great experiences.  I encourage members to become active with the organization and enjoy the many venues that the QCC offers. It is constantly reinventing itself to stay current and relevant in order to meet the memberships needs. 

 

Walter Grieve
Following his long career as a police officer with the Ontario Provincial Police, Walter Grieve went on to retire and most recently serves as a moderator, helping to facilitate conversations and build meaningful connections for the QCC Coffee Time Chats.  

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at the QCC? 

I’m a retired member of the Ontario Provincial Police. I am now in my 28th year of retirement and still feeling good. I was pleasantly surprised when the opportunity came up for the moderator position for the QCC coffee chats. I think I’ve done four of them now and they keep getting better. I’m fortunate that my contact at QCC sends me what I call ‘startup questions’ to kind of get the conversation flowing. But ask my wife, and after 56 years of marriage she said, “You have no problem getting conversations going, you should do fine.” 

What’s your favourite part about Coffee Time Chats? 

I think just the interaction with the many attendees. If I honed in on anything in response to your question, it would be the uniqueness of each area. Currently, I moderate the Thunder Bay and the London coffee time chats but having served as a police officer virtually all over those areas, there isn’t an area that we can’t speak about that I either don’t know about or haven’t been there. One of the chaps I spoke to at this morning’s coffee chat lives about five blocks away from me in London, and so we’re going to get together over at Tim Hortons. But I’m quite impressed with even just the four meetings I’ve had already, and I hopefully they get more attendees and the chatting continues . 

Do you have any advice for people who might have hesitation about getting involved? 

I know that sometimes there may be a couple of the people that are on the call but are more listeners than talkers. One chap I spoke to recently worked in the bush in the north and he didn’t see people daily, so now suddenly to be confronted with half a dozen people on a computer screen, went a bit silent. And so, I kept trying to bring him into the conversation and say, ‘What would you think about that?’ Or ‘Maybe you could give us something about what you did in the woods’, to kind of pull him more into the conversation….and it worked.

 Can you tell us about a time you truly felt a part of the community? 

One of the attendees this morning is from a small community just south of London, by about 20 minutes, she lost her husband at the start of COVID, and she’s in a huge house by herself. And she says, ‘Walt, it’s very difficult to find people to do housework, to do gardening,’ I told her that I’ve been around here for 40 years, I will call you this afternoon and I find some people that you can contact…I did and she has help. She was very grateful for that, but to me, that’s just what I have done for years. I’ve got information and resources that that one person didn’t and I’m more than happy to share them.  

If you had one message for the members of QCC, what would it be? 

Use the resources that are here for you. Plain and simple. 

 

The ‘Connecting Matters!’ program was made possible through funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP)

Are you interested in knowing more about the ‘Connecting Matters!’ Program?

Click here to find more information and register for the coffee chats, webinars and book clubs.