If you drop by the Hamilton Community Food Centre most weekday mornings, you’ll likely see Felix Guzman. A longtime construction worker, 62-year-old Felix retired four years ago when he could no longer move one of the fingers on his left hand. His knee, too, was out of whack.
“I used to work all the time,” he explains. “Buildings, highways. But I overdid it and I’m paying the price.”
Still, Felix likes to be active and the thrice weekly seniors’ fitness and wellness breakfasts at the Hamilton CFC are helping him stay fit and happy. “I was afraid I was going to end up in a wheelchair,” he says. “But I’m doing a lot better because of the exercises we do—aerobics, yoga. We have a little coffee and breakfast, always healthy food. I like how they treat you well—with kindness and respect. They say, do what you can, if you can’t do it, don’t hurt yourself.”
Felix immigrated from El Salvador 40 years ago but he’s lived in the neighbourhood of Rolston with his wife and three sons for many years. He sees the arrival of the Community Food Centre as one of the best things that’s ever happened to his community. Indeed, the 6,000-square-foot former grocery store where it’s located has become a welcoming hub for this area where 35% of families live below the poverty line and the number of seniors is rising steeply. Already, 26% of participants at the centre are over 65 years old.
“I’ve told my friends and neighbours about it and one guy, he’s continued to go back,” Felix says. “It’s such a beautiful space. I think it raises people’s spirits to socialize with others. People are always telling me they love the place.”
Felix also volunteers in the garden, putting to use some of the skills he’s gleaned in his own veggie patch—where he grows cucumbers and celery, French beans and beets.
Most Saturdays, Felix heads back to the centre for the Good Food Market and café to pick up low-cost fruits and vegetables for his family.
“Being retired I have to watch my pennies,” he explains. “But I also really enjoy going. I don’t want to be home alone. I don’t want my body to be crooked. Going to the centre has made my life better.”