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Senior Center teems with life worth saving Richard Pena | Sat, Dec 11 2010 12:00 PM

It was sometime late in our automobile traveling days that we discovered senior centers.

I recall being in a semi-small town in West Texas and seeing a sign on a small building telling all who passed by that this was the town senior center. We visited the place because there was a Western style museum next door, something that we were, at that time, interested in. And so, I might say, I was hooked on senior centers.

Over the years we have visited many of those senior centers. Most of them have been not too far from home. Oddly enough, they come in all sizes and shapes. There are some that have made their headquarters in public buildings that had other tasks. These buildings are something like fire stations, old school buildings, and even some former military Quonset huts.

The buildings have, of course, had alterations, a nice coat of paint and the addition of other amenities to make them habitable and attractive to their clientele. Most of them have met with our approval as well as the approval of the folks who visit them.

Chula Vista is much different. They have a senior center that was built for that particular purpose. It is a relatively new building, less than 10 years old and it graces a corner in the heart of downtown on F Street.

Each weekday scores of folks enter its front entrance all intent on pursuing that hobby that they have recently undertaken, or simply visiting with newfound or old friends that they know will also be there.

There is a sign out front that tells everyone that there is a dance on Tuesday evening.

Now this is not one of those jukebox adventures. This is a dance with real live music. There is also a tea dance every Thursday, this also featuring live music. Don't know how to dance? No problem. There are instructors who can have those with two left feet cavorting about the floor like a resurrected Fred Astaire. The center also features classes in line and square dancing, the latter being for those who are not quite the faint at heart.

The clubs and other classes are quite numerous. There are, for example, three different types of yoga classes with Pilates and strength building equipment for developing those abs and other portions that have been neglected.

The clubs include ham radio, coin, investments, singing, playing the ukulele and learning a foreign language. There are also art classes, creative writing, sharpening one's computer skills and learning digital photography.

The city, when they opened the center, thought of all those things that would appeal to the senior citizens of the community and they brought in a staff and a cadre of volunteers to operate the facility. Since its beginning it has opened each working day, only closing a couple of weeks each year for necessary maintenance.

I was there just a few days ago and the facility was teeming with participants, with almost each square foot of the building in use. The Chula Vista Senior Center is a busy place.

Alas, while it is a busy place it is also an endangered place. Within a few short weeks, those folks in city government who have those responsibilities will start eliminating those entities that they can no longer afford.

They tell us that a phenomenon similar to that one that constitutes a perfect storm has hit the city budget. This is a combination of facts, none of them pleasant, that have hit upon us at the same time causing what some folks call an economic depression.

The events leading up to this dilemma are too numerous and complicated to bring up in this space. Suffice to say that some bad decisions have been made but to mention those would be a little like finger-pointing. And we would not do that.

Instead of those negative approaches the thing to do is to find ways to keep the center going. There are groups of folks in the city who are putting in many hours doing just that. They, however, need help, much help to make a difference.

Bill Schlegel who is a past president of the Senior's Club. I met with him the other day and he outlined a number of items to me that might just turn things around. He can be contacted at (619) 427-6135.

One of my favorite stories in mythology is the Phoenix. Remember, he was a bird who flew up from the ashes to soar and become great.

Wouldn't it be gratifying if the Chula Vista Senior Center rose from the morass of bad judgment and once more soared on F Street? It can be done, you know.


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