By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
In this more-uncertain-than-ever time for nonprofits and the people they serve … you need to know who’s at work in our community, and what they do.
Toward that goal, more than 130 people gathered this morning in Hatten Hall, upstairs at the Senior Center of West Seattle, to celebrate what it does, and to raise money so it can keep doing what it does. Their generosity surpassed the morning’s $35,000 target, eventually totaling almost $40,000, executive director Lyle Evans told WSB this afternoon.
Never been to the Senior Center? It’s far from a stereotypically dour place with dour people. It’s a place with programs, services, and gatherings offering, among other things, food, fun, flexibility, and family – the one you find, as well as the one you were born into.
Board president Peter Gallagher (above) opened the event, telling the crowd that their bright smiling faces brought hope for eventual sunshine (despite the gray sky outside the windows of the SC HQ looking over California/Oregon). He hailed executive director Evans for “warmth, passion, and commitment.”
Evans hailed the center as “the jewel of The Junction … a home away from home for many, many people,” a place that facilitates many shared experiences.” One shared experience this morning was a public introduction to one-month-old Haaken, first child of board member Hamilton Gardiner.
Evans also shared where the center figured into his own journey, after he finished “climbing the corporate ladder” five years ago. He said he joined the center originally as a volunteer in the upstairs café (“come and have lunch here – it’s awesome!”), and things progressed to his current role running the center. “Isn’t that what we all want?” he asked – a fulfilling job/role in life.
He told the story of a man brought to the center by a friend and discovering what it offers – its balance class, for example. “People learn about this jewel in The Junction, and before you know it, their life becomes brighter and more fulfilling.” (The friend ended up becoming a volunteer.)
Three more center participants shared their stories via a video.
Walter Jelonek (above) called it a “home away from home,” a place for activities, companionship, and nourishment. Speaking of that: Joyce Ditz (top photo), who has coordinated Meals on Wheels at the center for 10 years, was featured too; the center provides 25,000 meals a year to those who need the program. She recalled passing the Senior Center every day after moving to West Seattle – then starting as a volunteer. “If the Senior Center weren’t here, I would feel empty.”
“We do better when we are eating with other people,” Carolyn Matthews declared – adding that it’s a bonus for someone else to do the dishes!
She said in her interview that she’s 87 and she’s losing family and friends, so the connections made through the center fills the growing void.
Along with all three of the people featured in the video, the breakfast crowd also included King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council Chair Joe McDermott, in our photo below with Amy Lee Derenthal of Food Lifeline, one of many nonprofits and businesses with reps in attendance too:
No political speeches, by the way – the elected officials were just there to lend their support.
The crowd did hear from Peter Goldman and his brother Ross Goldman, who came to the podium to tell their story.
For four years, Ross (above right) has volunteered in the Stop ‘n’ Shop Thrift Store at the center two days a week – from “moving things around” to serving as a security guard, though he joked, “I’m not a very scary one.” Peter, a high-profile local lawyer, offered cautionary words: “Today … the responsibility, the honor, of taking care of our elderly and giving them a sense of community is falling not just on the government but on us, the people, and we need to be there. … Government will still try to endeavor to help those who are more (vulnerable), but we can help … Today many are trying to privatize the services we provide to seniors … there is a role for private enterprise, but we have to step up. These are our neighbors, our parents, our friends … we have to take care of them.”
He pointed out that the breakfast provides a fifth of the center’s annual budget, with this event having a goal of $35,000 – “but we can certainly exceed that!” (And, as noted above, they did.)
SIDE NOTES: The Kenney catered breakfast, with Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor) donating cinnamon rolls; the event’s major supporters were Dignity Memorial (WSB sponsor, operators of Forest Lawn and Yarington’s in this area) and Nucor Steel.
WANT TO KNOW MORE – AND/OR TO HELP? You can find more about what’s happening at the Senior Center by going here (or just stop by – 4217 SW Oregon). And if you’d like to help, you can contribute online by going here.