New Cowichan Lake Olson Manor directors promise changes

Olson Manor, on the corner of King George and South Shore Road, was the first of its kind in Lake Cowichan when it was built

Some seniors in Lake Cowichan are celebrating not just because it’s a festive time of year but because there is a new board of directors at the town’s oldest apartment complex for seniors and they’re dedicated to making some changes.

“I’m feeling good about what’s happening there,” said Jack Peake, the new chairman of the board that oversees the operation of Olson Manor. “We’ve been getting positive feedback so far. The tenants are happy.”

Olson Manor, on the corner of King George and South Shore Road, was the first of its kind in Lake Cowichan when it was built more than 30 years ago. It was conceived of by a collection of service groups at the Lake — the Kinsmen, the Kiwanis Club, the Lions Club and the Elks Club — who saw a need for an apartment building where locals over 60 could live at an affordable price.

The groups formed the Lake Cowichan Senior Citizens Housing Society and, with the help of BC Housing, built the 16-unit Olson Manor. Representatives from each of the service clubs held positions on the society’s board, but over time as some clubs shrank and closed down, so too did their representation within the organization.

BC Housing eventually looked to other associations to operate the manor, eventually settling on a provincial mental health agency to make the decisions about new residents.

According to Peake, this turned out not to be a good arrangement.

“We had heard some comments from community members who were concerned about what was happening at the manor. There had been some tenants there who were not your ideal tenants,” he said, noting the governing body had brought in people from out of town who had mental health and “homelessness” issues.

He said two of these individuals basically walked away from the manor shortly after moving in and left their suites in terrible condition.

Something needed to change, which is when Peake and others were asked to form a new board that would oversee the manor. The other board members are: Jayne Ingram, Beth and David Kidd, Sheila Service, Surj Johel and Rolli Gunderson.

“We need to be cognizant of people’s needs, and we want to find people that will fit and work well with the other tenants there,” said Peake. “It’s really designed for folks who have minimal income. Small pensions. Disability pensions. That’s the kind of folks we cater to.”

This was Olson Manor’s original mandate, and the new board wants to get back to it, including creating housing opportunities primarily for Cowichan Lake residents who want to stay in the community.

Peake said the board has been in touch with the new town committee that is exploring the feasibility of a seniors care facility at the lake, and said Olson Manor, Evergreen Manor and the committee should all work together on the project, sharing expertise.

“Let’s work together on it,” he said. “We suggested to the committee of council that because we have official existing society [status], you can use that if you need to have an official status of some kind if you need to make an application for funds or whatever.”

At a recent Christmas party hosted at Olson Manor by the board, vice-chair Jayne Ingram said she got involved because she saw it as an opportunity to continue learning about the world of senior housing and how seniors can be supported at the local and provincial levels.

She also wanted to help continue the legacy of Peter Olson and his family, whose land the manor is built on.

“They strongly felt that this was something for the local people,” said Ingram. “So I would like to ensure that that occurs and it remains in our community and we keep it for people in our community.”