Over the course of time, friendships start and friendships fade. People can become friends after knowing each other for a long time or right after meeting each other.
To help single seniors find friends in Kelowna, Dine and Chat was created in 2018 and on Saturday (Feb. 18) they celebrated their fifth anniversary.
Dine and Chat was created to help 60+ single seniors meet people and maintain friendships to avoid loneliness. Ever since it’s inception, the group has gotten together every Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Deli City Cafe on Springfield Road. Since the beginning, throughout the pandemic, and still now, the participants of the group maintain friendships via phone calls, texting, and e-mails.
On Saturday afternoon, the group of more than 50 members got together to celebrate five years strong at, you guessed it, Deli City Cafe. They celebrated with food, coffee, wine, beer, and karaoke as they rented out the entire cafe for the afternoon. To help with the music and entertainment, they had singer Larry Branson, who is a Roy Orbison impersonator. Gary LeGresely, a retired musician also helped with the karaoke.
Gloria-Jean Seymour started the group in 2018 after she lost her last remaining family member a few months earlier and felt a void in her life. To fill the void, she wrote and published a children’s book entitled ‘Celebrating Love in All Colours’. She thought it would fill the void but she still felt like something was missing.
She wanted to connect with people again and to do that, she took a small advertisement with Kelowna Capital News, saying she wanted to find other seniors in town to development friendships with. In the first meeting she set up, she was shocked when 13 other people showed up. Some of the members from the very first meeting were even at the fifth anniversary celebration on Saturday. Seymour has always been a social person but realized she was lonely and the first event is when the retired hair-dresser found her next calling.
“Then I realized, just maybe this was my calling,” said Seymour. “I’ve never had any children, no grandchildren, and my love is for the community of Kelowna because I know there’s other people like myself. I’ve been alone for 14 years and still alone, but not really, because now these people have become family.”
While paying everything out of her own pocket to put these events together, Seymour got help from a friend who would come to the events, Steve Austin. One day, he told Seymour he was going to help her and gave her $1,000 and a printer to help with posters, name tags, advertisments, and more. She also bought a piggy bank and created rules for every Tuesday meeting. If someone broke the rules, they were to add a dollar to the piggy bank. The rules were as followed - no swearing, no mention of religion, no mention of politics, especially Donald Trump. She mentioned that even one member bought a coin with the former President’s face on it and would go around asking people to name who was on the coin. People would say this name, and have to owe a dollar.
Before the pandemic, when the group continued to grow, some of them even planned and went on a trip to Mexico.
After the first meeting in 2018 at the Old Spaghetti Factory, the group moved to Denny’s for their weekly meeting, and then Bar One and then Perkins, which has since closed down. Seymour said they were getting 45-75 people every Tuesday when at Perkins because they would rent out the back room. Now Deli City Cafe has been Dine and Chat’s home for the last three years where people from the group get together every Tuesday.
Seymour also joked that her group was meant to find Deli City Cafe because they have the same D.C. initials.
Over the years, the group has got together more than just every Tuesday as they sometimes have events like picnics and more. She pointed out one event in which they were having a party on the beach and it started to rain. To save the day, one of the members invited everyone to his house where the party continued.
During the pandemic, when they couldn’t get together, all the members would continue to communicate via phone calls, texting, and e-mails. During that time, Seymour would pass information out to everyone to update them on what’s going to happen with Dine and Chat and members of their community. When restaurants opened again, Dine and Chat returned to its normal weekly schedule instantly, and with masks on until the mandate was lifted.
“When I come home after an event or at an event, I’m also getting kudos saying what a great job I’m doing for the community and how I’m getting people out of their cages, a couple people have even got married, a lot got together and that wasn’t my intention!”
Over the five years, the ‘friendship list’, Gloria calls it, has 450 contacts and she’s still thinking of new ways to make the group grow and ways of getting the group together on top of Tuesday meetings.
“I’m constantly thinking and trying to be creative as I can.” said Seymour.
The group requires no membership fees.