A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life Line

Congratulations to Terry Englehart, executive director of Senior Center Without Walls in Oakland, who was awarded a Jefferson Award for Public Service earlier this week.
I can't think of anyone more deserving. SCWW does more good for more people than any other organization I know.
As many aging Baby Boomers are discovering, getting old means aches and pains that often make it more and more difficult to leave your home. Your world shrinks down to your bedroom, and you get cut off from all the things you used to know and love.
That's where SCWW comes in. Even people who are homebound can still use the telephone. And that can be their gateway back to the wider world again.
Every week, SCWW offers dozens of different discussion groups, support groups and other telephone group activities, ranging from the silly to the serious. There are enough things going on to keep you busy from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night.
All you have to do is call in at the designated time and join the conversation. And get this: It's completely free!
So what's the catch? There isn't any. SCWW is sponsored by Episcopal Senior Communities as part of their non-denominational community outreach program, but you don't have to be Episcopalian to take part.
You don't have to live in Oakland, either. SCWW has active participants all over the Bay Area.
There isn't room here to list even a fraction of the many different discussion groups. But it's safe to say that whatever your interest, they probably have a group for it. Call toll-free 877-797-7299, and SCWW will mail you a complete schedule. Then sign up for the groups that interest you most, and you're off to the races.
As I said, there's no charge. But Englehart and her tiny, two-two person staff still have to pay for the conference calls. If you'd like to help, please mail a tax-deductible check to Senior Center Without Walls, 114 Montecito Street, Oakland CA 94610.
A few months ago, I had the honor of being the focus of one of the groups. I asked the participants, "What was the most memorable event of your life?"
"The feminist movement of the 1970s," said a woman named Lynn. "I had spent all my adult years fighting racial prejudice, and it finally dawned on me: When are women going to have our turn? I spent the next decade learning how to be a human being. Before that, I just learned to be a woman."
"It was 73 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday," said Beatrice. "One of my neighbors was someone I called 'Uncle Larry,' and he was very good to me. He would take me to the candy store and buy me everything. One day I opened the newspaper, and a big headline said a member of Murder Incorporated had been gunned down. And there was a picture of Uncle Larry. I was only seven years old, and I was deeply touched."
But my favorite was Rosalee, who said, "It hasn't happened yet. I'm always looking forward to the next most wonderful thing. I've been in a wheelchair for 30 years, and I love this telephone community. I'm in love with you all."
And that's why we need Senior Center Without Walls.

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