HISTORY

Peer Learning / Collaborative Leadership / Active Participation

The SLR Society for Learning in Retirement has grown five-fold since its early inception of 100 members, now offering peer-led courses to more than 500 individuals a year.

In 1994, with the cooperation of Okanagan University College, the organization known as the Okanagan Institute for Learning in Retirement (OILR) was formed. Mr. Fred Miles, a founder of the McGill Institute of Retirement based on the Harvard model, decided to use his experience to form a similar organization in Kelowna. On May 24, 1995, with the assistance of Gary Dickinson, then Dean of Continuing Education at OUC, more than 200 people attended the inaugural public meeting.

In the fall of 1995 the organization offered its first courses - 10 volunteer peer-led study groups- with an enrolment of about 100 participants. The classes were held in a portable classroom at what is now Okanagan College (OC), provided by the College with whom they had signed an affiliation agreement.

In 1996 the organization formalized its bylaws, applied for and received Society status under the British Columbia Society Act. A branch campus was established in the neighbouring town of Penticton which later ceased its activities. With time and attendant growth, one classroom was insufficient for its needs and the group rented classrooms in church facilities (such as the Salvation Army) and vacated the portable building. By January 2003 membership had grown to 382.

In 2003 Okanagan Institute for Learning in Retirement re-wrote its Constitution and Bylaws. At that time, the existing membership and related activities re-organized as SLR Society for Learning in Retirement. The new organization then applied for and received both Society and Charitable Organization status from the pertinent authorities. The Certificate of Incorporation registered SLR Society for Learning in Retirement under the Society Act (1996) on January 29, 2003. Canada Customs and Revenue Agency granted SLR charitable status in February 2003, which allowed SLR to accept tax-deductible donations and create a building fund. A fundraising policy was drafted February 7, 2003.

SLR moved to its present location, the Martin Avenue Community Centre October 1, 2003 and shares the space with the Boys and Girls Club although the two organizations are in no way affiliated. SLR has a sub-lease with the Boys and Girls Club, the official leaseholder of the Martin Avenue Community Centre, a building purchased by the City of Kelowna from School District #23. The city had put out a public Request for Proposals to offer the building for lease. The building was initially used as an elementary school, and later as a School District #23 resource centre.

At the expense of SLR, extensive renovations were done to ready the office space and three classrooms for adult learners. Toward the end of 2009 the office was updated with new furniture and a new computer. Three laptops were purchased for classroom use. The organization is staffed by a paid office manager but is otherwise led exclusively by dedicated volunteers, including an elected Board of Directors. The University of British Columbia Okanagan (est. 2005) and Okanagan College are each represented on the board.

Social events such as the traditional fall luncheon and special events like the popular Spring Explosion which showcases the artistic work of members, is organized and implemented entirely by volunteers. The website was updated in January 2010 by a volunteer, Crystal Wariach, a UBC graduate mentored by Mary Ann Murphy, a UBCO professor and board member. After consultation with a sub-committee of the board, the new website was launched in spring 2010.

SLR continues to grow and attract new members with minimal advertising and word-of mouth recommendations. As of January 2010 there were 521 active members including 26 honorary life members.

This material based on: website, SLR archives, historic board minutes, as well as select interviews. Thank you to contributors Peter Cook, John Loewen, and especially Donna Duke for her review of the archives.

TRIBUTE TO PETER COOK

It was with considerable sadness that long time members of OILR/SLR learned of the death of Peter Cook, from cancer on Sept. 18th 2009, at the age of 80. As a founding member of OILR and the Merrie Pipers, he was a backbone of the organization and will be sorely missed. To read and learn more about Peter Cook and his legacy, please click here.