Chatting with the man in charge

By Andrew McCutcheon

We all know it’s a little intimidating when you have to go talk to your boss. 

I have one of the nicest bosses in the world — I know that for a fact! — but there’s something about sitting down for a conversation that brings me back to being in the principal’s office. 

But I must say, it was beyond easy to sit down with Larry Mathieson — not just my boss, but my boss’s boss! — who is president and CEO of Unison, which operates the Kerby Centre. 

Larry has been CEO for four years of Kerby Centre’s 50-year history. And he came at a very interesting time in our lifespan. 

If I was going to be sitting down and writing 50 stories about our history and all the people that make us who we are, Larry was essential to understanding what we do here and why it’s important. 

He knows better than most why non-for-profits are so vital to our communities. Larry has had a wealth of experience, working for Ronald McDonald House and Easter Seals in Alberta in leadership roles. But he started with Kerby Centre in January of 2020. 

And then a couple months later, the most interesting thing happened. 

“Everybody’s job changed significantly in March 2020,” he says. “I thought ‘this was no time to make a job change!’ … First week in January, two months down the road, and we were shuttering the doors.” 

Kerby Centre closed it’s doors under health recommendations from the provincial government, to keep our community safe from the advent of COVID-19. But it made our job way harder. 

“For any organization, that was a challenging time,” he says. “But when you’re working with seniors and a big part of what you do is creating community and reducing isolation and you use this building to do that for almost 50 years, and that’s all we knew how to do was to do that in this building.” 

We had to change things and fast. Larry led the organization into an age of unprecedented growth and innovation for the Centre, against a backdrop of uncertainty. 

“It forced us to learn things and to pivot in ways that we might not have otherwise,” Larry says. “Some of the things, our team was very smart and able to think outside the box, but other things were just dumb luck.” 

For example, we had a full commercial kitchen operating our Café, and now no customers. The plan? We kept making our signature meals, freezing them and delivering them to shut-in seniors across our community. 

“It was almost like: ‘If you build it, they will come’.” 

Truer words never spoken: from a time of uncertainty to now, Food Security is one of the biggest aspects of the way we continue to serve Calgarians.  

Larry may have been the guy leading the charge, but one of the best parts of working for the Kerby Centre? He understands the innate way that it’s an effort on the part of the entire organization to make things happen. 

“Our team has, nonstop, created better opportunities for older adults,” he says. “It’s across the board.” 

“That makes me very proud of what people have done.” 

It makes me proud to tell people I work here, too, Larry.  

And makes it a lot easier having those one-on-one chats with the big kahuna. 

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