Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • June-July 2024 • Circulation 5000


Rosalie Gelderman: Friend to Seniors

Almost Three Decades of Quiet Activism

Rosalie Gelderman. Karen Matthews

How much some people contribute to the lives of others is not always obvious. Some people make a lot of noise, demanding to be acknowledged and noticed for the work they are doing. Others, like Rosalie Gelderman, just quietly get on with the work. Rosalie has contributed enormously to our community in many different ways and one of the very significant ways is through her work with seniors at Operation Friendship Seniors Society.

Friday, January 21, was her last day of 26 years of work at the Operation Friendship Seniors Society (OFSS). Her involvement with the organization has spanned 28 years in total. In those 28 years she has quietly and efficiently helped to maintain and improve the lives of vulnerable seniors in our community. She has done this by being an advocate, providing practical assistance, and just by being there. Rosalie almost never lost her patience and understanding. She was always there to offer a helping hand when it was needed for the men and women who crossed her path. Rosalie worked with these people no matter what wrinkles and foibles they had. She exemplified non-judgemental acceptance.

Rosalie started working at OFSS in October of 1984 as an outreach worker, but she had been on the board for two years as the McCauley Community League representative. At that time, OFSS was housed in the old Bissell Centre building on the corner of 96 Street and 106A Avenue. Back then, OFSS managed no housing – just their drop-in, Helping Hands, outreach, and housing registry programs for seniors. In 1985, OF opened its facility on 106 Ave. which included a rooming house for 40 hard to house seniors over 55.

OFSS has since grown to manage housing for 350 people. Rosalie was there for it all. She has worked with five different executive directors, hundreds of staff, and approximately 1500 seniors in one capacity or another. She was Acting Director twice when the position was otherwise vacant.

Rosalie’s calm, supportive, gentle touch brought understanding and warmth to many.

Rosalie’s calm, supportive, gentle touch brought understanding and warmth to many. As Heidi Veluw, a colleague and neighbour said, “Rosalie consistently took care of more inner city seniors than anyone else – she made sure that they were housed, fed, and that all their income support was coming in from the various government programs. Her long tenure at Operation Friendship meant that she was the support for many seniors and had relationships with some of them for her entire 26 years. There is no one else in these seniors’ lives who was a steady and calming entity in their final days. She was a one-woman harm reduction program. But in the seniors’ eyes she was a loyal and kind friend.”

When asked how her work had changed over these 28 years, Rosalie said, “The organization is bigger, particularly the housing programs. Street drugs are more present and the seniors’ population is more multi-cultural. But otherwise, the issues are the same: health care, income, housing, literacy, navigating bureaucracy, and lack of family supports. OF becomes the family for these seniors. I was blessed to be part of their family.”

During the past 28 years Rosalie was also consistently active in the community in other ways. She was on the community league board for close to twenty years and undertook various roles. She was involved in the two area redevelopment initiatives sponsored by the City of Edmonton. She helped start Communities for Controlled Prostitution (precursor to PAAFE). She was active in the Urban Core Support Network and in larger city seniors’ initiatives such as the Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council. These have lead her to her current position as an Aging in Place Project Coordinator with the City of Edmonton, helping develop a neighbourhood strategy to keep seniors in their homes. She will bring her quiet activism and long experience and knowledge to assist seniors in the Mill Woods area of the city.

And of course, she continues to live in McCauley so her commitment to our community is not lost, but rather taken to a larger scale. We all wish to thank her for her quiet activism. We also wish her much success in her new challenges.

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