The overwhelming response to PROBUS in Fenelon Falls began with Kathy Stackhouse’s simple question posed to her sister and friend: “Do you think we could start a PROBUS club in Fenelon Falls?” They were members of the Lindsay club, and kept busy going to meeting and events.
The idea worked its way to Fenelon Falls resident and highly involved community member, Bob Pennock, who approached the Lindsay Men’s PROBUS Club (they have two, split along gender lines) to sponsor and guide the formation of a Fenelon Falls chapter.
The first step was to form an Interest Committee that would — not surprisingly — gauge interest among village residents. They initially hoped for about 50 persons to be intrigued, but their surveys indicated more than 200 could actually be involved.
A recruitment meeting was held in a St. James Anglican Church common room, but attendance forced a move to the sanctuary where 228 memberships were sold.
PROBUS draws its name from Professional and Business and is a nod to its roots in the Rotary organization. It was formed in England in 1965 by retired Rotarians who were looking for a way to maintain social connections. It is non-denominational, non-political, and does not raise charitable funds. With meetings typically comprised of a business portion followed by a speaker, the group exists to promote social activities for those over 60 years of age.
The group moved its first official meeting to the Fenelon Falls Senior’s Club. An additional 100 people attended and many stood outside in snow flurries to fill out sign-up sheets since the room had reached capacity. Today, meetings are held at the Fenelon Falls Community Centre and membership has grown to 350 with a waiting list of 125.
Club president, Steve Strangway, notes that the popularity of the third Tuesday of the month meetings shows there is hunger for regular social activity among Fenelon Falls and area residents. Since the meetings are usually held during the day, it is definitely tailored to seniors, but the speakers and activities have a broad appeal. Under the main umbrella, there is a computer club, a hiking club, a cards club, and a knitting club, among others. Speakers have ranged from a local beekeeper, to a forensic detective, to Kim Phuc Phan Thi — subject as a child of the iconic Time magazine cover following a napalm attack during the Viet Nam war.
In addition, the club organizes trips for members including outings such as a performance of “Come From Away,” and visits to the Bala Cranberry Fest, and the Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden near Omemee.
Strangway — who believes that a good club runs on good volunteers — was pleased to mention that with a waiting list of over 120 people, and attrition from the first year only running around 30, the inevitable second club to meet demand has taken its first steps. Since there was strong representation from Bobcaygeon at the Fenelon Falls meetings, the next chapter will be based there. The Fenelon Falls club will still have a waiting list of about 80, but the Bobcaygeon chapter anticipates taking members after its organizational meetings in early December.
Membership requires a $20 initiation fee, and a $40 annual membership fee. An application form can be filled in on the websites, and the curious can attend two meetings for free to get a feel for things.