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November 26, 2008 > A circle of friends

A circle of friends

By Mattie Carvalho

In an industrial part of town there is a hidden gem - the Newark Senior Center. From the moment a visitor steps inside, he or she is greeted with a warm reception and friendly faces. The smiles are evidence of one of the most striking aspects of the center, a sense of camaraderie. A real "family" atmosphere can be found here. Along with the main building on Enterprise Drive, which recently received a renovation, seniors meet and are active in a variety of other Newark locations as well.

Many classes for seniors are offered at the Newark Community Center and the Silliman Activity and Family Aquatic Center. Classes offered are varied and include Creative Writing, Basic Guitar Lessons, Hula Dancing, Senior Aerobics, Bollywood Bhangra (Indian Folk Dance), and water fitness instruction. The Silliman Aquatic Center even has a lift designed for those with limited mobility to transfer in and out of the pool. Cost is minimal and many are free of charge for seniors.

A few programs are unique to the Newark Senior Center. "Walk the Talk" is an ongoing community walking program sponsored through a generous grant from Kaiser Permanente. The group meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Along with the bi-weekly group walk, special seminars provide information on how to control blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart attack, lower stress levels, improve sleep, and live a longer, healthy life. The Newark Senior Center also participates in the Mercy Brown Bag Program created to distribute a grocery bag full of nutritious and healthy food to low income individuals. Bags are distributed twice a month.

Kelly Hess, recreation coordinator, is particularly proud of the programs that bring seniors and high school students together. As an example, classes are available to teach the often confusing technology of today's society. What better instructors than those who grew up with the "new" technology? Students from the surrounding high schools volunteer to teach seniors how to use a cell phone or even how to use that Macintosh computer received last Christmas.

Seniors enjoy keeping in touch through email and seeing pictures of their children or grandchildren's events. Others enjoy creating PowerPoint presentations. Not surprisingly, the teenagers learn far more than they teach. Hess said, "This is a very successful collaboration between the two groups." There is a really special bond between these two generations. Programs at the Newark Senior Center allow for such interactions to take place.

There are many other opportunities to establish relationships at the center. A billiard club often sets up competitions with other Tri-City centers. Pool tournaments are held on the last Wednesday of every month. For those seeking excitement in a different way, Circle of Friends knitting club meets every Monday afternoon when the Center is filled with laughter and the exchange of knitting skills, patterns, and the occasional gossip. Members that form this group are very close-knit indeed.

Velda Hughes, a leader of the Circle of Friends, said "We can't miss the meeting. If there is a holiday on that day, we come the very following day. If we go one week without seeing each other, we go nuts!" Laura Colouch nodded in agreement and noted that if there is something that any member needs, someone is always willing to lend a hand. Marlene Balan, another member, recalled her trepidation and the group's support when she first started knitting, "I began to feel 'I can do it.' I have been blessed with these lovely people. From them I have gained a lot of confidence."

The Circle of Friends can be described as an international group. Together they learn about each other's culture. For instance, Marie Lambert is from Ireland, Anna Eberle is Swiss, Maria Cannessa is from Mexico, and Colouch is from Guatemala. Just like the kaleidoscope of colored yarn seen sprawled across the Circle of Friends table, so are the ladies that make up this group and the Newark Senior Center members.

Perhaps the best way to capture the spirit of the Newark Senior Center is through a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

Friends, you and me....
You brought another friend...
And then there were three...
We started our group...
Our circle of friends...
And like that circle...
There is no beginning or end...

Newark Senior Center
Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
7401 Enterprise Drive, Newark
(510) 578-4840

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