Frank Churchley is 81 years old and he belongs to a men’s cooking club, a book club, a hikers’ club, a “lazy lunchers” group, a weekly coffee chat and a monthly speakers’ series.
In short, Churchley belongs to Probus — a club created specifically for retirees.
In late 2009, soon-to-be retiree Lois Cutler initiated talk of a Probus club for Kamloops after running into club members based in Salmon Arm.
“I felt I wanted one here knowing that I was about to retire and it’s a wonderful opportunity to continue friendships and stimulating guest speakers, conversations and this kind of thing,” said Cutler.
Churchley became its first president, having just moved from Victoria with his wife Anne where they belonged to a Probus club.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “When you’re not in a job, it’s harder to connect with new people. I got to know people that are not just acquaintances, but very good friends.”
The club’s popularity now seems boundless as membership has already reached the cap of 100.
“It just grew like Topsy,” said Cutler.
The group now hopes to sponsor an offshoot that would enable more locals to enjoy the socializing and all the activities the club has to offer.
“One of the objectives of Probus, once you reach a certain number, is to sponsor other clubs,” said Kamloops Probus president Colin James. “We like to keep it personal, so 100 seems a good number.”
Probus clubs were started in 1966 in England and spread worldwide, being introduced to Canada in 1987, with the first in Cambridge, Ont., and the second at White Rock.
Probus launched in New Zealand in the 1980s as a spinoff of Rotary Clubs, but just for retirees.
The name is an amalgamation of professional and business, but today, there’s no affiliation with Rotary and individuals can be retired from any occupation, not just professional and business careers.
“It’s expanded to include anyone whose done anything in life, really,” said James. “The whole idea of the club is to be… simple in structure, non-political, non-sectarian and non-fundraising with the simple objective of providing fellowship and companionship.”
What’s key for Probus members is there’s no service component, so fundraising, volunteering and time commitments are not part of the experience.
“A lot of these people have done a lot for the community already,” said Churchley. “Actually, a lot of them are still active in community service.”
What is fulfilling about the club, as its members repeat time and again, is the socializing and the physical and intellectual stimulation.
The monthly speaker series is a popular gathering for those interested in hearing from distinguished or influential guests.
Norm Thompson of Ajax was the speaker in April. He faced incisive, intelligent and poignant questions from the collective wisdom in the room.
And numerous special-interest groups allow members to take part in smaller gatherings for those who have shared passions.
Among her sub-groups, Cutler is an avid member of the cultural contact club, which enjoys excursions to museums, theatre and musical performances among others.
“When I was an international tour director I was being introduced to the cultures of the world. I knew I was going to miss it terribly,” she said. “But we’ve got a lot of opportunities in Kamloops. There’s something for everyone.”
Probus also proves it’s never too late to learn a new skill.
Churchley’s involvement in the men’s cooking club has been enjoyable not only for him, but also for his wife.
“My wife’s been cooking for 55 years so she’s welcoming someone else doing something in the kitchen for a change,” he laughed.