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Senior volunteering, raising money for the Sooke Gathering Place

Paul Martin is doing what he can to help seniors in his community

You could say Paul Martin's devotion to volunteering has come full circle.

"When I was 14, I volunteered to build a youth centre in Newcastle, England," said the long-time Sooke resident. "Now, here I am at 80, fund-raising for a seniors centre in Sooke."

After a recent story in the Sooke News Mirror regarding a fund-raising initiative for the Sooke Gathering Place caught his eye, Martin was quick to get busy putting a team together for The Grand Parade, which takes place in September. The Sooke Gathering Place is a multi-generational use seniors activity centre proposed as part of an elders complex that will include affordable rental housing units for individuals 55 plus on Wadams Way.

"I believe Sooke is the only community (of its size) on the Island that doesn't have a seniors centre," noted Martin, president of the South Island Table Tennis Club. "We'll all be senior one day and need a place to meet, socialize, get exercise, and have fun."

Although he initially set a goal of raising $1,000, Martin decided to double that amount after his team for The Grand Parade pledged $600 within a few days.

One of the aspects of the Sooke Gathering Place that appeals to Martin is the inclusion of space for seniors to mentor youth, and vice versa.

Martin shared a gold medal in men's table tennis at the 55 + BC Games in 2019, and has been ranked in the top 10 singles players in Canada. He's been a staunch advocate for the opportunity to have seniors teach the finer points of the table tennis and mentor local youth in Sooke for 15 years.

"It's especially important nowadays to provide young people with options other than their digital devices," he stressed.

Although Martin was able to launch table tennis programs at a couple of schools in Sooke for a few years in the past, COVID put a stop to that until recently.

"We've had discussion with Journey Middle School about starting up in September," he said. "Looking long-term, our club sees the Sooke Gathering Place as a great destination."

Mary Dunn, vice-president and campaign manager for Sooke Region Community Health Network - the organization behind the Sooke Gathering Place - said she's pleased that Martin signed up as a team captain for The Grand Parade in Sooke.

"He has so much energy and community spirit that we know he will pull together a fun team to help us raise money to build the Sooke Gathering Place," Dunn said. "Paul also mentors youth, a connection that we hope to have in the Sooke Gathering Place. "

In the meantime, Martin will continue with his other fundraising efforts, which include putting in 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day picking up discarded bottles and cans around Sooke.

"I average about $150 as month that I donate to local charities," he said. "But right now, the Sooke Gathering Place is my main focus."

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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