The Kerby Centre, run by Unison Alberta, is a non-profit organization that aims to support adults over 50 by fostering environments that fight isolation as well as providing assistance with income tax returns and helping to with food security. Karen Whiteman, Regional Director at Unison Alberta was able to provide some examples of how the Kerby Centre approaches the issues that older adults experience, and how they help make ends meet.


What do you feel are the types of things your organization is doing that are the most innovative in creating equitable communities?

It’s gonna sound boring, but we help our clients do their income taxes and apply for benefits. And the reason that sounds boring is because it’s not exciting or innovative. But what you need to know is that a lot of people don’t do their taxes, because they think they’re not going to get a refund, not realizing that there’s all sorts of GST and all those kinds of things or benefits they can apply for, that they can get as a result of having their income tax done.

Who or what do you feel hinders the progress towards achieving equitable communities? 

Sometimes it’s knowledge. Sometimes it’s misconceptions with our tax program. People assume well, if I didn’t make much money, why would I do my taxes? Not realizing the benefits of doing their taxes. We also do a lot of work since the pandemic, actually around food security, and concerns around people having enough to eat and having the right quality of food. And so we started small, delivering meals made in our kitchen during COVID, because there was nobody coming to the center.

Karen Whiteman, Regional Director at Unison Alberta.

What parts of the city do you see as being the most vulnerable?

I think there’s pockets probably in the northeast and southeast of lower income seniors. But we are located right downtown. And in fact, we see a lot of lower income people, especially seniors in our areas, because there’s all these new apartment buildings and things nearby. It’s also a bit of a food desert downtown. So it’s hard, there’s not very many grocery stores in the area. So for a lot of people they come here to get their bread on Tuesdays and Fridays, for example.

Who else do you feel is doing innovative work improving the well-being of communities? Who do you think we should talk to, and may we use your name in reaching out to other organizations?

One is the Women in Need Society. And what they’re doing right now. I thought it was really interesting what they were telling people I just saw in the news who were escaping the fires in Yellowknife and coming to Calgary. They’re suggesting instead of you and I taking our donations down to a hotel or something like that, to actually take it to the Women in Need Society and they’ll distribute it to the people. They’ve got some really neat innovative ways of helping Calgarians survive financially.”

Exterior of the Kerby Centre at the downtown C-Train station. PHOTO: KERBY CENTRE

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