The original five members of the Calgary Association of Lifelong Learners. Back, from left: Carol Gerein, Arlene Stamp and Barbara Grant. Front, from left: Don Smith and Bob Stamp. photo: Calgary Herald
“It was like a meeting of kindred spirits.”
That’s how CALL co-founder Carole Gerein describes that first meeting at Bob and Arlene Stamp’s house in June 2010 — ten years ago this month — that marked the beginning of a lifelong learning group for seniors in Calgary that would grow to become CALL.
“Before I left their house that afternoon, we made a commitment to each other that we were determined to get this group going and make it work,” Carol says. That same day they recruited Barb Grant, and, along with Don Smith, those founding five met regularly over the summer months of 2010 to create a framework for the nascent organization, which by the fall was given the name “Lifelong Learners Society of Calgary.”
All five founders had backgrounds in education and lifelong learning. The Stamps were in particular inspired by their experience with Lifelong Learners of Santa Cruz in California (now the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of California, Santa Cruz), and believed Calgary would prove fertile ground for similar peer learning opportunities for seniors.
Within months of that first meeting in June, a brochure was created and distributed to friends, colleagues and associates. “Anyone we thought would be interested in keeping their brains active,” Arlene says. The invitation was sent out for an organizational meeting November 6, 2010, at Grace Presbyterian Church, asking participants to “help us plan an exciting and innovative new group in the city.”
They hoped for 25, and 40 enthusiastic participants turned up, with Barbara, Carol, Don, Arlene and Bob taking turns outlining the hopes and plans for the new group. There was a planning meeting within two weeks for interested volunteers and soon thereafter the transition from the five founding members to a steering committee of twelve, which began meeting monthly.
Over the winter of 2010/11, everyone pitched in to help with program offerings, finding facilitators, finding space, organizing a fundraiser, and publicity. Gradually, the committee developed a number of peer learning groups, a lecture series and activities, ready to go for the fall of 2011. Topics included: Calgary 1912, Are We Losing Our Democracy, World in Flux, Controversial Nonfiction, Contemporary Films, Films from Denmark, Sunday Urban Walking, Gallery Tours.
A gala launch at Triwood Community Hall kicked off CALL’s first season on September 1, 2011, with 132 attending, far exceeding initial expectations. As Bob said that day: “Whoever said that our age group isn’t interested in learning?”
Barb recalls the group’s first fundraiser, a roast beef dinner for 100. “It was a huge undertaking and the expanded team worked well together. There were 11 crockpots plugged in throughout the Rosedale Community Hall and six ovens cooking potatoes, beef, apple crisp and vegetables. We ran out of wine that night and Bob Gerein and Doug Francis needed to go get more.”
They may have run out of wine, but energy only increased as the founders and their steering committee went on to build the vibrant organisation which we know today. Following the pattern of other such organisations, the committee approached University of Calgary and Mount Royal Universities for affiliation but were turned down. Perhaps that rejection helped to build the vision of peer learning with which they had begun, ensuring the volunteer spirit and grass-roots management that has carried the momentum forward over the past ten years. As then CALL president, Tamara Seiler, wrote in June 2012, “…we want members to see CALL not just as an organization that offers them learning opportunities, but one that enables them to create such opportunities”.
Today, with its 1195 members, nine monthly Speakers Series and over 60 peer facilitated Interest Groups, CALL continues to grow and expand; its bottom-up approach which gives members the opportunity to suggest and develop new activities has led to the ability to accommodate an incredible range of interests enabling members to learn both from and with our peers.
“What has happened is light years away from what I imagined would happen,” co-founder Don Smith says. “CALL’s success is extraordinary!”
|Photos from the early years|
|Don Smith at mic, Arlene Stamp seated to his left, Bob further along. We were visited by the Lifelong Learning Group from Santa Cruz California, where Bob and Arlene were members when they spent the winters there.||Bob and Arlene Stamp – Film group at their house||Don Smith, Robert Seiler, Bob Stamp – CALL Stampede Breakfast Sept. 2012|
|Early strategic planning February 2013||Carol Gerein and Pat McCann Cooking demonstration Willow Park April 2013||May 2015|
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Tuesday, June 23 1:00 to 2:00 pm.
Register online and you will receive a Zoom link and password
Speaker will be Ali Abid from GenHelp Program. This will a highly interactive session where Ali, Co-founder of GenHelp, will facilitate a conversation about loneliness in a fun and engaging way. Join this session to understand what is loneliness, ways to combat it and where to get help.
So far, there have been no volunteers for the open Board positions. CALL cannot operate unless members step up and volunteer for these positions. Please consider offering some of your time and expertise. You do not need to have any previous Board experience and mentoring is available. If you want, you will also be welcome to attend Board meetings prior to being elected at the October AGM so you will be able to hit the ground running in November.
These open positions offer the opportunity to be engaged in and contribute to the organization of the CALL activities you love.
The main role of the Vice President is to learn the President’s role and also, in the event of the absence or incapacity of the President, to carry out the role and responsibilities of the President. The Vice President is an Officer of CALL together with the President, Past President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Vice President is also on the Executive Committee which carries out emergency and unusual business between Board meetings and looks after issues relating to liability and insurance. The term is one year as VP then one year as President and one year as Past President. The time commitment when sitting as VP is usually four to six hours per month.
The Chair of the Program Committee calls and attends the meetings of the Program Committee and reports to the Board on its activities. The Chair (or a delegate) attends all Board meetings and brings any Committee questions which require Board approval to the Board. The Program Committee’s primary function is to develop, nurture and sustain CALL programs. This includes overseeing existing programs and developing new programs plus recruiting and supporting program Coordinators and Facilitators. The term is two years and the time commitment averages about 10 hours per week including Board duties.
The Marketing Committee is a new committee this year which will be responsible for developing and implementing a marketing strategy for CALL. The Chair of the Marketing Committee will be responsible for creating the committee which will then write the terms of reference for the committee. Thereafter the Chair will call and attend the meetings of the Marketing Committee and report to the Board on its activities. The term is two years. The time commitment is unknown as it is a new position and whoever takes it on will determine the time commitment.
Our monthly Café is one of CALL's key events. It's an Open House for all members to visit and enjoy a special program.
The Café Coordinator books the guest speakers, arranges the venue and works with CALL's crack A/V and Food/Beverage teams. It's also one of CALL's most enjoyable positions.
This is your opportunity to use your leadership and organizational skills to connect CALL members with some of Calgary's most interesting public figures and speakers.
Interested? If so, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Irene MacEachern at: email@example.com.
The CALL membership year is September 1 – August 31, but we have always encouraged new members to sign up and take advantage of a special deal that extends their membership from May 1 to September of the following year. This year we are also extending the invitation for current members to renew at any time after May 1. The membership Team is well organized and will be happy to accept and process renewing memberships as well as new ones at any time after May 1.
The CALL Newsletter is our way to communicate what is going on in our community. Usually we communicate to members about upcoming events, however, since all CALL gatherings are postponed for an undetermined period of time, we decided to use the newsletters as a way to ‘peek behind the curtain of CALL’, to give some general information about CALL groups and members.
You are invited to send your ideas and suggestions for future issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know what your Interest Groups are doing and your strategies for coping with this situation in which the whole world finds itself. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity; not every submission will necessarily be published.
Meanwhile, be well, stay well in every sense of the word.
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