Q&A with Brenda Day, President of the Rycroft Merry Pioneers

How did the Rycroft Merry Pioneers get its start?
The opening of the Merry Pioneers was in the fall of 1976. There was an interest in the history of Rycroft, so a group of seniors got together and formed an organization of a Seniors Citizens group. Fr. Dennis Dubuc was largely responsible for getting this organization going. Through his leadership and the assistance of a good committee, things started to come together. With help from the Council of the Village of Rycroft as well as the support of the residents of Rycroft, the Village of Rycroft, with the help of a government grant of approximately $18,000, purchased an empty building, which used to be Chu’s Café.

Where did the name come from?
That group voted to call themselves the Rycroft Merry Pioneers.

How many members do you currently have?
At present, we have 59 members. We welcome new members. You have to be 55 to become a member. We have members not only from Rycroft but other surrounding communities as well.

Who has been with the club the longest?
Anne Kotyk, who is soon to be 97, has been a member since day one.

Who is your newest member?
Our newest member is Walter Pakarnyk, who is from Watino. You can buy a membership anytime throughout the year.

What are some of the events the Rycroft Merry Pioneers hosts?
Some of the events we host are Crib Tournaments, Shuffleboard Tournaments and Whist Tournaments. Before COVID-19 hit, we had monthly Potluck suppers as well as Foot Care. We now have Old Time Country Music twice a month. If anyone plays an instrument and/or sings they are more than welcome to come and play. We are booked to work a casino in September if they lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

The Rycroft Merry Pioneers is a drop-in center. Is there a specific person who sets up, puts coffee on, etc.?
We don’t have a specific person responsible for opening the centre and putting coffee on. We have different people opening up each day. Some people open specific days of the week, and someone always steps up and fills in the other days.

What does the Rycroft Merry Pioneers provide for the seniors in the area?
I think the Rycroft Merry Pioneers provides a place of fellowship for seniors. It gives seniors a chance to get out and make new friends and enjoy the friendships they have made. They love reminiscing with each other of the old days. For many, it is their social outing. Seniors love to play cards.

How have the members been dealing with the inability to meet at the center during the pandemic?
Not being able to go to the centre for three months put a real void in their lives. Many were very lonely and not used to staying home, as many go to the centre every day. When we opened up in July, we had a lot of happy seniors. They were like kids in a candy shop.

How do you go about attracting new members?
We don’t do anything specific to attract new members. It is basically by word-of-mouth. When new people come in, we do ask if they would like to buy a membership, and most do.

Is there a cost to becoming a member?
The cost to join the Merry Pioneers is $5 and can be purchased any time.

What would you like people to know about the Rycroft Merry Pioneers?
I would like people to know that the centre is a great place to come whether you want to just come for a quick coffee, spend the afternoon visiting or playing cards or games. The atmosphere is very inviting. We are open to any new ideas. If you want to see something new happening, come in for a chat as we are open to new ideas. In closing we want to let people know we are now meeting at the Community Hall, as our building on Main Street is being demolished due to it having mold in it. We want to thank the Village of Rycroft for offering us this space. We do hope to get our own building in time, but will have to do some serious fundraising. If anyone wishes to make a donation, it would be greatly appreciated.