Patricia Allen (Part 2)

by Andrew McCutcheon

Last week, we started our story about Patricia “Pat” Allen, one of the most instrumental figures in Kerby Centre’s 50-year history. 

We left off with a public event with over 100 seniors clamouring for an organized body to advocate and support them. Now we’ll cover how exactly it came about with Patricia’s assistance, and remember her with the words of those who knew her best. 

Following that meeting in 1969, The Seniors Citizens Central Agency of Calgary was formed on May 5, 1970. The organization was born, but now it needed a home: a place to centralize not only the services they were aiming to offer but to live as a home away from home for any local seniors. 

“She didn’t start Kerby Centre by herself, she had a bunch of forward-thinking seniors who thought the same way she did, that we should have a little more influence on what we do, rather than just let people make laws and such things for us,” said her husband Grant Allen in the years after her passing. 

In 1972, Mount Royal College (Now Mount Royal University) moved from its original downtown location on 7th and 11th. Patricia was instrumental in securing a deal with the government to lease the newly vacant building and land across the street for $1 a year. 

The new centre was named for the founder of Mount Royal College, George Kerby, as the Kerby Centre. 

One of the very first aspects of Kerby Centre that lives on to this day was how it acted as a source of vital information for seniors. Whether folks need help finding housing, applying for benefits or anything under the sun, their burning questions could be — and still can be! — answered by folks in this building. 

When it started, it was a single volunteer with a single phone. And who trained that volunteer? None other than Patricia Allen. 

From her start working with the groups that founded Kerby and its philosophy, Patricia soon would become involved in many of the day-to-day operations as CEO. She would act as the CEO of Kerby Centre for an incredible 35 years before her retirement in 2008. 

Former board of directors president Cherie Parry, who had known and worked with Allen since their time at the University of Calgary, remembered Allen as a fiery, energetic “little dynamo” who invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into the Kerby Centre. 

“Pat didn’t just work at the Kerby Centre,” Parry recalled, “She lived, breathed and slept Kerby Centre.” 

Parry said money and resources were tight in the beginning. “We were a smaller, tighter group and there was a saying: if you need it, you did it. Allen was always available and willing to pitch in any way she could.” 

Even after her retirement, Patricia still cared for the Kerby Centre and its philosophies. It’s estimated that she earned over 20,000 volunteer hours outside of her regular working hours. 

Patricia would pass away on April 15, 2017, just two weeks after her 93rd birthday, but her memory and contributions to the legacy of Kerby Centre will not soon be forgotten. 

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