Local band awarded for filling care homes with music

(From left to right) Joe Jacobs, Irma Brunsdon, Conrad Amyotte and Bill Wasyliw, four of the five members of the JobMates band, pose for a photo with their awards at Plaza 88 on Mar. 5, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

JobMates the 2020 recipients of the Seniors Advocacy Centre’s 70+ and Still Going Strong Award

Normally there’s only one winner of the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre’s 70+ and Still Going Strong Award. This year, there’s five.

Members of the band JobMates were presented with the award at the sixth annual Gala Luncheon for Seniors at Plaza 88 on Thursday. Mayor Greg Dionne also gave them the City’s Award of Merit, its highest award for citizens.

The classical band provided live music at the luncheon, with a few seniors even getting up to dance in between the tables.

But that’s a normal occurrence for the band. Not only do they volunteer their time playing at seniors events, they travel around to care homes to brighten people’s days.

“Other seniors come in to dance, to entertain them and pick them up and move them around a bit,” said accordion player Bill Wasyliw.

“They seem to enjoy a break—they need some entertainment. That’s what they seem to look forward to all the time.”

Wasyliw has spent about 12 years volunteering to help seniors, but he’s “the young one of the group,” he joked. Conrad Amyotte has spent 35 years, Irma Brunsdon 32 years and Joe Jacobs 30 years.

John Kushneryk, the fifth member of the band, was unable to attend on Thursday.

JobMates bassist Irma Brunsdon lets out a smile while playing a song at the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre luncheon at Plaza 88 on Mar. 5, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The band originally started with some different members, but as they’ve passed on, others have joined and kept it thriving.

“Now that I’ve kind of retired, moved into town, the days get too long. So it’s nice to get out two, three times a week and go visit,” said Wasyliw.

While he knew about the award in advance, the others didn’t.

“I was totally blown away,” said Brunsdon. She seemed especially shocked when Dionne handed her the Award of Merit.

“It’s nice to be recognized for it, I mean, we’d do it regardless anyway,” added Wasyliw.

John Fryters, of the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre, outlined all of the years the group has been volunteering.

“If we would have to pay you minimum wage, that would be a lot of money,” he said. Laughs filled the room.

Fryters said the centre gave them the award “for bringing music to so many seniors, for countless hours of volunteering with a music team in nursing and care homes, for bringing music to seniors at the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre and the Heart of Seniors Gathering.”

Mayor Greg Dionne delivers his speech next to the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre’s John Fryters at Plaza 88 on Mar. 5, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Saskatchewan’s Minister Responsible for Seniors Warren Kaeding—a new cabinet position introduced in August 2019— was the guest speaker at the luncheon.

“Seniors are an active, vital group in Saskatchewan. In fact, one in seven residents is considered a senior,” he said, saying 92 per cent of them continue to live at home.

“To me, that’s the number that we need to focus on. How do we keep those 92 per cent active and able to live in their homes as long as possible, surrounded by family and friends and community?”

For Dionne, it’s vital to recognize seniors’ contributions: “Whenever we can reach out and celebrate seniors, we should.”

Previous recipients of the 70+ and Still Going Strong Award include Coun. Don Cody, Bishop Albert Thevenot and Eleanor George, who’s actively involved with Community Service Centre’s Seniors Transportation and Two Miles for Mary campaign.