By Christopher Oak Reinier
Vicki Halstead, was a kindergarten teacher for 21 years. That ought to be good experience for managing a Senior Center, where members know it is okay, in fact, it’s good to be “forever young”. But now, in all their senior-wisdom, they play with a Bingo ball rather than a dodge ball, a knitting rope rather than a jumping rope. They would rather play a game of golf than a game of tag. Can’t imagine why! And Vicki knows she’s not the teacher anymore. Every day she finds herself surrounded by people who together bring centuries of wisdom. All those little ones grown up! It’s her pleasure to receive from them and give back to them as well.
Vicki has worked with West County Community Services for 15 years. At one time or another she worked in all of the Agency’s many programs. Three years ago she was hired as Manager of the Senior Center.
She is responsible for the everyday workings of the Center. She opens the doors in the morning and closes them at night, schedules the activities and the help that is necessary for the Center’s success. She does the purchasing, manages daily maintenance and repairs, arranges for food deliveries and distributions, for meals prepared and served. She plans and organizes events, and produces the Senior Center newsletter, the Scoop, all this just for starters.
Vicki accomplishes this and more with the help of many Senior Center volunteers who, of course, do much more than play games, as they contribute significantly to the work as well as the play at the Center.
Vicki schedules guest artists to teach art classes, Spanish classes, exercise and yoga classes, and invites guest lecturers to discuss issues relevant to aging. She has found a hair cutter who comes every other week to give free haircuts. She organizes bus trips for members to visit, for example, the 10,000 Buddhas’ Center and the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, the Coppola Winery, or the Bohemia Preserve.
Then there are the events she creates; the Thanksgiving Feast, the Christmas Party, the Chinese New Year’s luncheon and Raffle, St Patrick’s Day Lunch. Girl! Do you get any rest? Well, it helps to have the help of many of the seniors themselves.
They come to the Center mostly for companionship, for the social activity. It’s not easy sometimes for seniors to stay connected. Often having lost a mate, or separated from their families, they can get isolated. The Center is an oasis for them. Where they can find friends and give to the community just as they receive from it. It’s a positive place to be.
Vicki smiles: “I love my job.”