Located near the banks of the Nanaimo River lies a building where complete strangers come together to have a little bit of fun.
They laugh, share stories and educate each other all while the sounds of threading needles, buzzing saws and splashing paint can be heard in the background.
It’s that kind of camaraderie and creativity that has kept the Jonanco Hobby Workshop going for more than four decades.
“You make a lot of friends and you get to know a lot of people,” said Lil Kroll, a longtime Jonanco member.
The workshop is nestled on the corner of Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road. It was created in 1974 when John Colwell along with more than two dozen other families got together and decided to create a space where they could enjoy their hobbies.
The non-profit hobby shop features a wood and lapidary shop as well as a large area for quilting, sewing and knitting. Other hobbies that can be enjoyed at the shop include basket weaving, soapstone carving and wire wrapping.
In order to use the workshop, an individual must become a member or pay a drop-in fee.
Jonanco also offers a wide range of classes including basic machine embroidery, sewing and quilting.
Linda Addison, a Jonanco member for 13 years, says the workshop welcomes new people who have experience in a particular hobby and are interested in sharing their skills with others.
“If somebody has something that they wish to share and other people want to learn how to do it then instantly we can put a group together,” Addison said. “We’re not professional teachers but we can share the knowledge that we have with each other and I think that is the important part.”
For one of Jonanco’s newest members, Laurie Williams, using power tools was something she was generally unfamiliar with.
“I have never used power tools much at all, so I am kind of scared of them,” Williams said.
With a little help from some of the shop’s more experienced members, Williams soon found herself using some of the tools with relative ease.
“I didn’t know how to cut,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how to do anything really. People have been really, really helpful.”
Williams, who lives in the Cowichan Valley, says she enjoys coming to Jonanco because it offers users the opportunity to try new hobbies.
“I could come here three times a week and do three or four different things,” she said.
While the workshop provides seniors with the opportunity to try new things and be social, it also welcomes younger members.
“Most of our programs are designed for seniors, but we are trying to get more younger people to come so we can keep the club going,” said Jonanco board member, Brian Rigby.
Earlier this year, Jonanco received $24,378 in funding from the federal government. The money came from the government’s New Horizons for Seniors program.
Rigby says the money will be used to replace the facility’s 40-year-old furnace, upgrade its electrical system and replace older equipment.
“It [the furnace] uses oil like it was going out of style and there was theft of our oil,” he said.
Addison says the recent financial grant goes a long way for the workshop and helps keep membership rates low.
“For everything you have to update, you have to raise the money,” Addison said. “Being a non-profit and wanting to keep within the budget of most seniors, or people, this was a bonus.”
The Jonanco Hobby Workshop will be holding its Quilt Daze from Oct. 16-19. Its annual Christmas craft fair will be held from Dec. 5-6.
Membership is $100 per year and $6 to drop-in. For more information, including a full list of activities and events, please visit www.jonanco.com.