For 50 years, Rota Villa has been providing a home for Castlegar seniors and today’s board of directors plans to ensure it thrives for another 50 years.
The idea of a community-run seniors housing project first began to be tossed around the Castlegar Rotary Club in the mid-1960s. It was an idea that the club was so passionate about that each member signed a $1,000 pledge in order to obtain a loan necessary to get the project off of the ground.
Since the first 12 units opened in 1969, Rota Villa has undergone numerous changes both in the physical structure and in organizational management.
The Castlegar Villa Society was formed to manage the operation and over the years countless volunters, society members and board members have played a role in ensuring low and moderate income seniors have an affordable place to live.
Today Rota Villa consists of 40 housing units and is run by a dedicated group of people who are continually trying to maintain aging infrastructure and upgrade whatever they can as funds and grants become available.
It is no small task, but the Castlegar Villa Society is dedicated to keeping this facility run by the local community and has resisted turning it over to BC Housing.
“When something is community run, the community can control it,” said former board member and present society member Marsha Carew. “It is a community effort and it brings us closer together collectively when we can do these things.”
In 2013 the society reached a point of crisis, but a vote to hand the residence over to BC Housing failed and the entire board of directors resigned.
This resulted in an entirely new board that was fully committed to keeping Rota Villa operating stepping forward.
“Six years later, we are moving towards peak performance,” explained Marsha Carew. “Which means we have staff, an executive director working and liaising with the board, the board doing its part governing the operation. It is exciting to be at this point.”
The Castlegar Villa Society’s board and core group of volunteers are all old enough to reside in the facility themselves, with president Karen Smith topping 80. While they are dedicated and enthusiastic, they would like to see some younger people take up the cause.
“There is a big need for housing for low-income seniors,” said Smith. “We would eventually love to create more housing for seniors.”
In fact, more than a dozen people are on the facility’s waiting list and Smith thinks they could easily fill 30 more units.
Smith and Carew also feel that keeping the sense of community at the residence is vitally important.
“It’s a community within a community,” said Smith.
“We are preserving this for our own families and for the children of other people who live in this community,” added Carew.
Carew says caring for one another and role modeling that for your children is the way to build a strong community.
“The important thing is giving of yourself,” added Smith. “Caring for everyone.”
“I think the community can be very proud of Rota Villa, because it has come so far and has been here for 50 years,” said Carew.
“I have a real passion for this place. I think it is so important for a community to have something like this. It is a wonderful thing to offer your citizens.”
Providing seniors with secure affordable housing is something the Castlegar Villa Society intends to keep doing for many years to come.