A local club is taking the next step in its evolution and it’s having a lot of fun doing it.
Through the efforts of the Chatham’s Portuguese Canadian Club’s volunteer members, the club has upgraded its beach volleyball courts and filled two nights of leagues in its first year of operation.
President Carlos Pisquem said the club has installed lights, upgraded netting and has opened a licensed patio for the Monday and Thursday night activity.
“We’ve been really happy with the response,” he said. “We have 48 players out twice a week and the atmosphere is really good.”
Located on the bank of the Thames River, the courts provide a scenic, treed setting more reminiscent of northern Ontario than Chatham-Kent.
“The one thing I’ve noticed is that when people are out here, they aren’t using their cell phones, they’re actually talking to each other,” he said. “They’re getting some physical activity but having fun with each other too.”
Pisquem said the club will continue to broaden its appeal to members and the community at large.
“We have members who play but the leagues are open to anyone. It’s just one way we serve as many people as we can.”
The club was founded in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the current building, including a banquet facility, was completed.
“For a long time, we just had a small club at the front and we’d rent another hall whenever we had a function. Through a lot of hard work, we finally built our own hall.”
Longtime club member John Branco remembers, “working almost every weekend” for the better part of a year to build the club.
“We had all kinds of people helping,” he said. “We were able to build it because people donated so much time and effort. We finished just in time because we had a weekend booked just as we were finishing. It was close, but we did it.”
Pisquem said as the club heads toward the half-century mark, it will continue to change with the times.
“We will always hold our culture and heritage as Portuguese Canadians, but meeting the needs of new members is important as well.”