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February 6, 2008 > Diversity is harmony: Fremont Senior Center

Diversity is harmony: Fremont Senior Center

By Mattie Carvalho
Photos By Mattie Carvalho

"May I have this dance?" With a wide grin, John Li, a Senior Citizen of Asian decent, approached a beautiful lady, Paixao Sousa, a Portuguese-born retiree, to request a dance. On Thursday, Jan. 24, the skies were overcast and teased of rain outside. Inside, the multi-purpose room of the Fremont Senior Center had been transformed into a swing club. The room was filled with live music, courtesy of the Timothy Reilly's Canyon Band, and happy feet fox-trotting to songs like "Jump, Jive, and Wail."

Located within the Central Park, the Fremont Multi-Service Senior Center boasts a diverse population that is reflective of the city of Fremont; there are members of all ethnicities and cultures in the center. The Senior Center strives to bring everyone together so that they may learn from one another. Likewise, there are many groups specific to common backgrounds shared designed to enable individuals to build a network of support.

Interest groups include the Chinese Club, the Club for Afghan Women, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the East Indian Seniors, the Muslim Support Network, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), Los Amigos for Latino members, and the Lavender Seniors for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Seniors. Additionally, there are support groups for Caregivers, Parkinson's Disease, the Al-Anon Family, and for Seniors with Visual Concerns. All groups typically meet once or twice a month. The groups plan many social activities and fundraisers, and also impart advocacy, education, and resources unique to the group.

Since the day it opened its doors in 1980, the Fremont Senior Center has benefited hundreds of senior residents - currently, there are approximately 1,200 members. However, Linda Olla, Fremont Senior Center Manager, said she estimates that over 3,000 seniors are served annually; some that may not be full-time members but participate in any number of activities available. For example, a person does not have to be a member to indulge in one of the scrumptious meals cooked on-site. A small, non-member fee of $6 buys a delicious and nutritious lunch prepared by two professional chefs. These are no ordinary lunches; they offer items like beef tri-tip, chicken saltimbocca, lamb shanks, salmon with vodka cream sauce, crab cakes, and outside barbeques during the warmer months.

Li has been a part of many senior centers throughout his retired years. He said he feels that the Fremont Senior Center is one of the best. He elaborated, "[The Fremont Senior Center] helps the seniors. Here people share their happiness and I share my happiness, too. It provides for all the needs that seniors may have."

Some of the needs that Li refers to are met through various services rendered. There are blood pressure and glucose screenings twice a week and podiatry services and cholesterol tests given. There are also free notary and ECHO housing (reverse mortgage assistance) services available. Seniors may even obtain legal assistance, Social Security & Medicare Counseling, or help with Estate planning.

"This is a very busy center," said Olla, who has been working at the Senior Center for 12 years. In conjunction with the Fremont Adult School, over 50 classes are offered to seniors. There are over eight different types of Tai Chi classes alone! Most of the classes are free, and if there is a charge it is minimal. Classes are open to the public, but with priority registration given to seniors. There are also classes in meditation, yoga, quilting, woodcarving, needlecrafts, painting, bridge-playing, and mosaics.

Among the favorites are tole painting, the folk art of decorative painting on wooden objects, and Chinese calligraphy, the East Asian tradition of writing characters with brush and ink. Mary Johnson, a member of the center for six years, particularly said she enjoys the Current Events class. It incorporates lively discussions on history, politics, and issues affecting the nation. Since becoming widows, Johnson and her good friend, Bernie Eckersley, love the company and opportunities to meet people that are found in the center's classes and events.

Aside from the weekly social gatherings, like the ballroom dances or the karaoke performances, the Fremont Senior Center is host to other special events. This year, the Fremont Senior Center will host its first annual Crab Feed. The fundraiser will take place on Friday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. The event will be held at Merrill Gardens in Fremont, but extra parking will be available at Prince of Peace Church, located at 38452 Fremont Blvd., Fremont. Tickets to the event are $40 per person, which includes crab, pasta, tossed salad, garlic bread, an auction, and a raffle. All proceeds will go toward the Fremont Senior Center. The seniors invite the community to join them for a memorable evening, to experience friendship and diversity. As Arthur Murphy, an enthusiastic and long-time senior member asserted, "When you get diversity, you get harmony."

For tickets and more information about the Fremont Senior Center's Crab Feed, call (510) 790-6602.

Fremont Senior Center's First Annual Crab Feed
Friday, Feb 8
6 p.m.
Merrill Gardens
2860 Country Dr., Fremont
(510) 790-6602
Tickets: $40

Fremont Multi-Service Senior Center
Open Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
40086 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
(510) 790-6600

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