We talked with Michele Fawcett-Long, coordinator for the Westside Friends program at the Senior Center, about how the Senior Center is keeping people connected.
How does the Westside Friends program support seniors? Sometimes people become more isolated in their senior years or when they live with a disability. They may lose friends and family members, have chronic medical issues or be experiencing increasing difficulties getting out of their homes. The Senior Center’s Westside Friends program matches volunteers with seniors or people with disabilities for companionship, help with projects and assistance with tasks like grocery shopping and running errands. Many of our volunteers and seniors have created deep connections that are meaningful and fun.
Who are your volunteers and participants and how many people were engaged in the program in 2020? Our volunteers and participants are all West Seattle neighbors. Last year 35 volunteers served 29 community members to make this program possible.
How have you adapted the program during the pandemic? Our volunteers still stay in close touch with their senior friends, but now with careful attention to social distancing. Our pairs will talk on the phone or text each other. Or they may visit or take walks outdoors with masks on. Volunteers are also running errands to places like the grocery and drug store and dropping by books for their friends to read.
Have you heard? Members of the Senior Center now pay no fees for most classes and activities. We are excited to offer this new benefit as part of your membership. Here’s a reminder of what your membership includes:
New in 2021: No fees for members on classes and activities (except specialty services like Foot Care and Dental Hygiene)
New in 2021: Free Cookie Friday (come to our main entrance between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Friday for a fresh-baked cookie delivered to the door, please wear your mask)
New in 2021: Discounts at local West Seattle businesses! Stay tuned for a list of participating businesses soon.
50% discount on the first Friday of the month at our Stop ‘N Shop thrift store
10% discount on meeting room rentals up to $500 (when county health conditions allow)
Maryann has joined the Senior Center staff team as our new full-time Program Coordinator.
You might recognize her from the West Seattle community where she has lived for many years and has been a leader in various community-building activities.
Maryann helped launch Megawatt, a West Seattle-based community development and networking nonprofit and is a co-founder of the Barton Street P-Patch. She also served as a project manager/community relations planner for the King County Wastewater Treatment Division bringing neighbors and the county together on large projects in the community.
Maryann has a passion for seniors. She’s excited to bring her ability to quickly establish and maintain relationships with a wide variety of groups and individuals of all ages and backgrounds to her role. She will bring a bright light to the Senior Center and help us establish new programs while keeping the vibrancy of our mission and current programs alive.
At the Senior Center’s virtual holiday party on Dec. 18, we will also be honoring a wonderful person who was a big part of the Senior Center for many years.
Walter Jelonek passed away this year. Walter was a regular at Rainbow BINGO, attending nearly every month. He always came over to say hello to the staff and volunteers working in the bar and brought friends to join him at his table. Walter also spent his lifetime crusading for the LGBTQ community.
In 2015 Walter was interviewed for a KING 5 news story on isolated LGBTQ seniors. You can watch the story here.
He was a lovely and thoughtful man, and we will miss him.