An old coffee house tradition is alive and well, thanks to The Guelph Wellington's Men's Club.
Through weekly gatherings at the Italian Canadian Club, ‘retired men can socialize and continue learning,' say organizers, who peg the weekly turnout at about 150 members.
“Members are retired. They come from a wide range of different backgrounds, and they are all still very interested in staying informed,” says Fred Dawkins, a member of the club’s management recruitment committee.
“Our members enjoy the initial social period of discussions over coffee, tea and cookies. Then everyone listens to an excellent speaker on a current topic for a half-hour presentation."
Dawkins says The Guelph Wellington’s Men’s Club is an "undiscovered gem" for many male retirees in Guelph.
"There’s a lot of diversity here. Being part of the club, it stimulates you in your retirement, and the social aspect is so important.” he said.
Guest speakers come from a wide range of fields including science, technology, law, history, agriculture, politics and the arts.
Club Members are also encouraged to share their own personal, career,and life stories.
Dawkins has spoken to the group on more than one occasion.
“I wrote a series of books on entrepreneurship, and so I spoke about that,” Dawkins said. “And when I was 71, I walked the Camino Trail in Spain with my grandson. It was great to share that experience too.”
The Guelph Wellington’s Men’s Club engages in charitable efforts. This year will be its ninth year contributing to it’s annual food drive.
The club also hosts regular outings and tours for members.
Charlie Toth, tour organizer at the club, has been a member for eight years.
“We’ve had some very interesting tours around the city. From the Basilica of our Lady Immaculate, to the Wellington Brewery and the University of Guelph,” Toth said.
Other tours have been to the Ontario Steam Heritage Museum in Puslinch, the University of Guelph Alma Fish Farm, the Model Railroad Tour in St. Jacobs, the Spring Mill Distillery.
Members also take part in various activities throughout the year such as golf tournaments, pickleball and biking trips.
“Young or old, it’s a group of great guys and you learn something every week,” Toth said.
The club first began inviting members 46 years ago. At that time, there were two Clubs in Guelph known as the Kiwanis Club of Guelph and Kiwanis Club of Royal City. Many of these Clubs’ members had been with their organizations for years and were either in or reaching retirement age.
Discussions began about the possibility of forming an alternative organization to meet the needs of these members.
The Guelph Wellington’s Men’s Club was officially established in March, 1977.
Dawkins says if you are in the right age group, anyone is invited to join and can contact the club by email through the club website.
“It’s just a group of men who like to get together. If they are retired, we invite them to come to a meeting,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins said he joined after hearing about the club from a neighbour, 10 years ago.
“My next-door neighbour belongs to the club. He encouraged me to come out.” Dawkins said.
“I think it really does attract people once they get exposed to it. We do have very good guest speakers. That’s a major thing, and secondly, everyone is retired, so there's that social aspect of the group.”
Weekly meetings ‘officially’ begin at 10 a.m.
“But everyone comes early, about half hour or so beforehand to socialize before the meeting,” Dawkins said.
“The club is well designed. We have greeters at each meeting and organizing speakers is done well in advance. The workload is spread out very well and runs quite smoothly because of that."
Typically, the Guelph Wellington’s Men’s Club hs about 350 members.
“When I first joined there was actually a waiting list. We did lose some ground during COVID-19, and today, we are at about 290 members,” Dawkins said.
Meetings are also accessible on Zoom. Dawkins says not everyone attends every week, and being a social club, there is no attendance requirement. Members come out when they can.
“The coffee is hot, the cookies are good, the people are friendly, and the topics are relevant,” Dawkins said.
“We all need to stay socially active and we are never too old to learn."