By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The largest senior center in Seattle is in the heart of The Junction.
That’s one of the facts served up with breakfast today as Senior Center of West Seattle supporters gathered for its annual early-morning benefit.
The hundreds who filled the Masonic Center for the occasion also learned that SCWS served almost 4,500 people last year alone.
Those who benefit from it aren’t just seniors. It’s the only community center-type facility in The Junction, and that means it’s the scene of countless meetings, gatherings, and events – from Rainbow Bingo to mayoral town halls.
The annual breakfast – this year, themed “Joy Is in the Journey” – has grown so popular, it had to move to a larger venue. But the 11th annual fundraiser was full of the flavor that permeates the center. (Another fact: You don’t have to be a member to use SCWS services.)
Breakfastgoers were serenaded with piano classics as well as ukulele music by The Ukes (Unique Kinds of Entertainers), a Senior Center program. Vice chair Amy Lee Derenthal introduced The Ukes after welcoming guests on behalf of the board. (Apropos to the “journey” theme, they started with “Sea Cruise.”)
The center, Derenthal later observed, is about helping people “live their best lives.” She reminisced about the example set by her mom, who taught her about “people helping people” – Derenthal was just 4, in Idaho, when her mom started volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Years later, after she grew up and moved here, she started doing the same thing via the SCWS.
In his turn at the podium, board chair Hank Kerns called his work with the SCWS a “joyful addiction. … There is no recovery from it.”
Following him at the podium was SCWS executive director Lyle Evans.
He announced the Senior Center’s 2019 Community Spirit Award recipient – Trader Joe’s of West Seattle, which donated more than $750,000 of food to nonprofits including the SWCS. The meals prepared at the center are often “the single most nutritious meal” that many seniors enjoy each day. Nicole Sipila, community donations coordinator at TJ’s and 21-year West Seattle resident, explained that her employer provides the community support as part of its service as a “national chain of neighborhood grocery stores.”
Evans also celebrated a big award the Senior Center received in the past year – honored as the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce‘s 2018 Not-for-profit of the Year – and explained how SCWSis working to become more inclusive.
The Sea-Mar Community Health Centers are now a partner. So is Neighborhood House High Point. And the SCWS continues expanding LGBTQ programming including Second Thursday OUT! and a partnership with Generations Aging with Pride. The center will have its first LGBTQ dance party in June, Evans added.
Breakfastgoers also heard an inspiring story of how a volunteer and client benefit each other. In another video clip, Evans noted, “Volunteers help us succeed but what we really need is funding,” explaining that many big funders have made changes that leave organizations and institutions like the SCWS scrambling to stay afloat. (The breakfast’s goal was $100,000; we’ll add an update when the tally’s available.)
Sponsors included a variety of community businesses including WSB sponsors Verity Credit Union, Quail Park Memory Care Residences, and The Kenney. Supporters were many, too, including shoutouts to other local nonprofits’ leaders, including Fran Yeatts of the West Seattle Food Bank and Lora Radford from the West Seattle Junction Association. And the breakfast crowd include elected representatives from West Seattle – County Councilmember Joe McDermott and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
Whatever amount of support or participation interests you, SCWS appreciates it, Evans made clear. Of the center – going on half a century in operation and offering more than 50 services – as he summarized, “We support you in becoming more vital … less isolated … more safe… The Senior Center will be here for you.”
ADDED FRIDAY: $65,650 is the tally, “best ever!”