A moment of spontaneity more than 30 years ago provided Carla Eiers with a new job, flexibility and more time for her family.
When she moved to North Vancouver in 1990, Carla looked forward to making friends and building a new life. She decided the local community centre would be a good place to start. Looking back, she realizes that her first visit to the Lonsdale Rec Centre (now Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre) not only offered her a range of programs for her young family, it also connected her to new friends, and eventually led her down a new career path.
“Joining the Rec Centre was a great way to keep busy and meet people,” Carla said. “I always had a good feeling about this facility.”
In fact, Carla felt so good about it, she walked in the doors one day and applied for a job. Thirty years later she is working in the front office of Harry Jerome, a place that now feels more like home than a job.
“It was a spontaneous decision,” Carla explained. “I walked past the Rec Centre when I was taking my son to the daycare down the road. I had just returned to my full-time job and felt terrible about leaving him every day. I decided it was time for a change. I walked in and filled out a job application right after I dropped him off.
Three weeks later Carla was working as a clerk in the front office at the Karen Magnussen Community Recreation Centre, where she remained for the next seven years.
“Working for North Vancouver Recreation and Culture (NVRC) was ideal,” Carla explained. ”It provided the flexibility I needed so I could focus on my family. I could work nights and weekends and no longer needed daycare. It was a very supportive working environment.”
That flexibility also made it possible for Carla to go back to school and achieve her Early Childhood Education Certificate, an idea that sparked when she took her son to the Delbrook Community Recreation Centre Preschool on Queens Road. Carla completed her education and became a teacher at Sandpiper Preschool in Lynn Valley, which is another NVRC facility.
During the 12+ years Carla taught at Sandpiper, she maintained her connection to Harry Jerome. She worked part-time in the front office and her family continued to enjoy the programs available there.
“My kids also found community at Harry Jerome,” Carla said. “They took swimming lessons, learned to skate, made friends and volunteered there. All our activities evolved around NVRC.”
Carla loved her career in early childhood education, from which she retired in 2018, and continues to enjoy her work at Harry Jerome. She has seen the designs for the replacement facility, which is expected to open in 2025, but is glad the current community centre will remain open during construction.
“The new community recreation centre will be beautiful. I have so many good memories here at Harry Jerome. The staff here are great, it feels like family,” Carla said. “During COVID we all became closer. Our customers were so grateful that we were open and here for them, and we felt the same way.We gave each other a sense of normality during a non-normal time.”
Even though the facility did have to close for several months during COVID, the staff and clients kept their connection. With strict new protocols in place, Harry Jerome re-opened in September 2020. The community came back and Carla was there to welcome them.
“You get to know the clients and genuinely care about them,” Carla explained.”
One of the many stories Carla shared, was of a woman named Gisela, who comes to Harry Jerome almost every day. Her children grew-up on the programs and lessons available there. Now, in her eighties, Gisela is still swimming. If she misses a day, Carla or one of her colleagues will call to check on her.
“Gisela is a reminder of why we are here and why people come,” Carla said. “She greets us all by name when she comes in. We all care about each other.”
The love and connection to the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre is evident when you walk in the doors. Paper hearts with messages and memories adorn the walls as people share their favourite stories and thoughts about the facility.
The new Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre will be designed to meet the needs and interests of the community it serves. Over time, the people who work at and visit the new facility will furnish it with the feelings and experiences that make it feel like home.