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Dan Saidman with Gwen Secter executive director Becky Chisick

By MYRON LOVE

Dan Saidman is just coming up to his first anniversary as the new program co-ordinator at the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre at Syd Glow Place (on October 31) – and a very busy year it has been.


“We have introduced several new programs in the past few months,” he says.
He cites, for example, “Florist for a Day” which followed the GSCLC’s garage sale earlier in the summer. “After the garage sale, we had Dolores the Florist come in the following Wednesday and teach some of our members to make floral arrangements in vases that we collected during the garage sale,” he notes. “Everyone got to take home beautiful flowers at the end of the day.”


Then there was the special performance in July by Melanie Gall, regular Fringe Festival performer and opera singer by training who entertained with tributes to Edith Piaf, Vera Lynn, Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland – a concert that was very well attended.
And new this summer was an arts program for members focusing on drawing, painting, photography and working in clay. “Our works were on display at the Concert Hall,” Saidman says. “We finished the program with a visit to the Art Gallery to view the John Paskievich exhibition.”
Saidman further notes that the popular Wednesday lunch program followed by bingo, entertainment or a current events discussion has been expanded to include a therapeutic art program earlier in the morning – beginning at 9:30 – followed by an exercise class – focusing on core strength and balance – before lunch.


“We average 65 people for lunch on Wednesdays and have about a dozen for the art and exercise programs,” he reports.
And there have been more outings – to Rainbow Stage, Camp Massad, the Folk Festival, the South Beach Casino and the Israel Pavillion at Folklorama. “We also organized visits to the cemeteries on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and are organizing another cemetery visit to coincide with the High Holidays,” he adds.
Another new initiative is a Shabbat outreach program in co-operation with the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue and Rabbi Matt Leibl to the Portsmouth and the Shaftesbury. “At the Portsmouth, we had Friday lunch with some of the residents and Rabbi Matt spoke about Shabbat and residents shared their stories,” Saidman says. “We will be visiting the Shaftesbury retirement home on September 20th. There the three of us (Rabbi Matt, Becky and Dan) will lead a program that will include songs and prayers to welcome in Shabbat. “

New for the coming year is a series of seniors’ singles evenings. “We will be having these singles nights every three months,” he says. “The purpose of the evenings will be for people to meet other people. We are planning a Trivial Pursuit night, a karaoke evening and a mixer and we have a band booked for another evening.”
He further notes that, thanks to the efforts of three summer students, Gwen Secter is now on Facebook and Instagram, and has a new-look newsletter and better promotional material.
“We are also excited about the history of the Gwen Secter going back to the days of the Golden Age Club that the students produced,” he adds. “We are producing a small run of the book which will be launched at our annual tea on November 17.”


Saidman describes his time working at the Gwen Secter as the best job he has ever had. “It is a nice working environment and the staff and membership have been great,” he says.
For Saidman, it is as if his previous working history has prepared him perfectly for his new role.
Dan Saidman is the son of Shelley and the late Lee Saidman and grandson of the well-known Sam “the Camera Man” Saidman. At university, he studied Fine Arts and, upon graduating, turned the family camera store on Portage across from the University of Winnipeg into an art gallery.
He called the gallery “Leibl”, his father’s Jewish first name. “My purpose in opening the gallery was to expose more people to artists and the arts,” he says. “I staged monthly art shows featuring up to 60 artists at a time. I also organized concerts, poetry readings, even a wedding. For a number of years, we were rated the third best art gallery in the city.”
He says that operating the art gallery gave him valuable experience in programming and co-ordinating activities and working in the community.”
After seven years, he closed the gallery and went to work for the first time in the Jewish community as director of BBYO. He himself had been a BBYO member (as well as a Camp Massadnik) in his teen years.
“BBYO was very important to me when I was growing up,” he notes.


As director, he adds, he helped to greatly increase the membership at the time. “We had a fantastic group,” he says of his BBYO kids. “I am still in touch with some of them.”
The problem for him working as BBYO director was that was essentially only an eight months a year job.
His next career move was working is seniors care. “I had a choice between working in tourism or with seniors,” he recalls. “Red River College had a course in seniors care. I excelled in the course which was very helpful to me in learning about the aging process.”
He credits his blend of experience working in the Jewish community and as a community organizer with his art background for his success working with seniors. His first role working with seniors was at the Waverley Retirement Home. That was followed by a stint at the Heritage Lodge personal care home.
However, with the election of the Pallister Government three years ago, Saidman says that he could see that cutbacks were coming in his field and that it was time to look elsewhere.
That elsewhere turned out to be the Gwen Secter.


“I received an email about this opening at the Gwen Secter,” he notes. “I applied and met with Becky (executive director Becky Chisick) and Danielle (his predecessor, Danielle Tabacznik, who left the Gwen Secter to return to university). “Everything clicked. It’s nice working in the Jewish community again.
“Some of the seniors I am working with now have grandchildren I know through my time with BBYO.”
Outside of work, much of Dan Saidman’s time these days is taken up with raising two-year-old Harrison. “He really keeps me busy,” he says of Harrison.

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