The Strathroy Canadian Club is a non-profit organization that proudly serves the Strathroy area. Charlie Milhomens is the President of the Portuguese Canadian Club and has been involved in the club for over 20 years now.
The Portuguese Canadian Club began in 1977 as a way for recent immigrants to the area to remember and celebrate the Portuguese culture. In the late 60s and early 70s, many families migrated from Portugal to Canada. Some went to Vancouver and some went to Toronto. However, many worked their way from Toronto to Strathroy: “Back in the 70s, I would think the population of Strathroy was about half Portuguese and half Dutch… now it’s quite a bit less maybe 20 % are Portuguese”.
The Strathroy Portuguese community “found that they were doing a lot of traditional festivals where they would have to rent the arena and they got to the point where they thought, let’s have our own facility. So a few of them got together, bought this piece of land - 8 acres - and set up the corporation as a nonprofit. They built the place themselves”.
Since its opening, the building has undergone some major renovations. A 2nd floor, lobby, and kitchen have been added to the original building, and the main ballroom has since been upgraded. These upgrades have allowed the Club to host various community events throughout the year. They hold many traditional events like the Holy Spirit festival, which is one of their biggest events. The club welcomes both members and non-members of any nationality to attend their club events.
Whether your event is a corporate meeting or a family celebration, the Strathroy Portuguese Canadian Club is the perfect location for your special event. Their banquet facility is equipped for trade shows, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, corporate and charity events, and seasonal celebrations.
What is Charlie’s role in the club?
Charlie is the current president of the club. He has taken on various roles in the club such as the vice president and a member on the board of directors: “I’ve just recently come on board to stay full time and to get more bookings for the club and right now I’m basically managing the hall”. Charlie says that he chose to remain a member of the club because he "wanted to keep the traditions alive, seeing everyone gathered to celebrate is amazing to see and I like being a part of that. It’s my culture as well, and if we don’t do it, who will?”
What does the Portuguese Canadian Club do?
“We try to keep the Portuguese culture and traditions alive by hosting different events that they’ve had for the past 40 years. We find that a lot of the Portuguese community still like to have their traditions, so the idea is to have those traditions, but we expanded to try to do more corporate events, more weddings, more banquets. We’re a non-profit organization and any funds we get from the weddings and other events give us the opportunity to keep on with those traditions. We also try to help out as much as we can if it’s for a non-profit and it’s for a good cause, we certainly want to help.”
What is their vision?
"Our mission is to promote the Portuguese culture and to keep it alive for the next generation and the generation after that. Even if it’s a few festivals a year, the focus when it began was that it gave a place for the Portuguese to come and get together and celebrate those cultures and those festivals. We want to open it up to the entire community now, we want it to be a community place not just for the Portuguese people.”
What’s next for the club?
The Club hopes to be able to continue to share its traditions with the younger generation. When speaking with Charlie he explained that the club is always looking for new ways to foster engagement among its youth, stating that what may have been of interest to youth when the club began, has changed:
“Unfortunately, we’re finding that more and more traditional events for the club are dying off. The new generation really hasn’t picked up what they used to do for the older generation. So our focus right now is to try to continue those main traditions that we have but focus more on hosting weddings and banquets.”
Charlie shared with me how much he enjoys seeing the community come out and join in the Club’s cultural events. He hopes that the club will be able to continue and achieve their mandate; to share the Portuguese culture with the Strathroy community:
“We have hope that a 40-year old tradition won’t die, we are a community now. We want people to realize that maybe 20 years ago this was Portuguese. We want to find other ways to get the community involved. We want to get the word out that we’re not just Portuguese, it’s for the community.”
It is great to see the history and traditions of the Portuguese community being shared with not only new generations, but with the greater Strathroy community. Just like Charlie, I have hope that the Strathroy Portuguese Canadian Club will continue to be present as a positive influence on the local community. With an impressive facility and exceptional service, Strathroy Portuguese Canadian Club provides a perfect location for any event!
Contact Info: Strathroy Portuguese Canadian Club 375 York Street, Strathroy, ON. Telephone: (519) 245-4361
The Business Help Centre (CFDC) of Middlesex County is staffed by a team of business professionals who encourage entrepreneurship and the pursuit of economic opportunities. Funding support for the corporation is realized through partnership with FedDev Ontario. As part of the Community Futures program, the Community Futures Development Corporation of Middlesex County provides the following:
● Business Consulting & Resources ● Term Loan Investment in Small Business ● Community Economic Development
The Business Help Centre: “were the ones who gave us the loan for part of the renovations in 2015, we’re hoping that now that I’m here full time, we’ll be able to get help from them with obtaining government grants". - Charlie Milhomens