“My parents wanted a better chance at life in California, so they moved us from Arkansas when I was two years old. I’m the youngest of six kids so my brothers and sisters helped me out a lot, but my parents made sure I wasn’t a spoiled brat. Both my parents were ministers, so that taught me a lot about right and wrong.”

– Lee Hendrix

Lee connected with SOS (Service Opportunity for Seniors), the community-based nonprofit that provides meals on wheels in Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and Castro Valley. SOS’s Coordinator visited Lee at home, and then set up the meal delivery.

 

“I lost 44 lbs. from my cancer and the treatments, and it became really difficult to leave my house to go shop for food, so I was eating pretty poorly. My sister in Vallejo told me about Meals On Wheels and now they’ve been bringing me meals for over a year. I really do have more energy and strength now, and the variety of the food is great.”

– Lee Hendrix

For seniors, eating well-balanced meals on a regular basis helps speed healing. Good food and adequate hydration are essential for maintaining weight, energy, balance, and cognitive function.

 

“My cancer was caught at an early stage and it’s now in remission. I’m hoping to start exercising this year and the food from Meals On Wheels has really helped me. One of my biggest needs now is my yard; the weeds have really got away from me. Taking care of it has become a big challenge since I just don’t always have the energy.”

– Lee Hendrix

A Meals On Wheels delivery is not only a meal, it is a chance for a human connection and a safety check.
 

“They say that’s my strength: getting along with people. I worked as a group counselor at a juvenile hall for kids that were incarcerated, and you meet a lot of personalities there. I became a supervisor and I made sure my staff took good care of the kids. I still keep good company. I have three friends that come over and we play pool at my house.”

– Lee Hendrix

 

“I was trying to figure out: ‘how do I take the ACE train to get to the hospital?’ Here it turns out Senior Support had the transportation that’s wonderful…. Jennifer would come and take me to the doctor appointments. I had three preventive glaucoma surgeries.  My eye doctor recommended a place in Hayward. It’s a place I used to drive by all the time, but when you’re not driving it’s a whole different thing. A taxi would take $50 each way. Jennifer very much helped me with that.”

– Judith, Age 69

Judith says that the Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley’s Transportation Program has been the most helpful to her. It’s managed by Jennifer.

 

“Then Suzanne came here [to my home] and Dana too. Dana helped me a lot with some counseling. I have gotten a lot of friendship, which is nice.  I really like the SOAR Program. I like the SOAR people. I think all of us in SOAR [Stepping Out and Reconnecting] have had our setbacks, and it’s nice to feel comfortable talking with people.”

– Judith, Age 69

Judith uses Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley’s In-Home Counseling Program and works with counselors Suzanne and Dana. They introduced Judith to the Stepping Out and Reconnecting (SOAR) Program, a support group for isolated older adults to help them reconnect to themselves, each other, and the community.

 

“After my 60th birthday, Lorie showed up, and it was wonderful. I was really struggling until that meeting. I was overworked, exhausted, being treated for depression, and had mobility issues. Lorie showed up and got me involved in events, like the luncheons. Then there were volunteers who came and helped me with the yard. It’s been very helpful to me to have this community.”

– Judith, Age 69

Ten years ago, Judith’s first contact with Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley was with Lorie, who coordinates Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley’s Friendly Visitor Program.

“Food, that’s the hardest part. I use to eat mostly fast-food, but my health and whole life turned around because of the nutrition teaching. Managing my diabetes and changing the way I eat is difficult, but now I get home-delivered meals and written instructions. They showed me the path; how to stay healthy, clean, and sober – five years now! My mother even got to see me sober.”

– Mr. Burns, Age 65

Mr. Burns is enrolled at Center for Elder’s Independence (CEI) in Oakland, where he receives care from a multi-disciplinary team, including doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social worker, activity leaders, and dietician. He has made friends both at the center and in the community and says he’s the happiest he’s ever been.

“I got myself a truck when I was about 20 and worked for the Ford Motor Company, made good money. I was a young man from Oakland on the way up in the 1970s and ‘80s. I pieced together a good living as a bartender and truck driver in San Francisco. But then I fell in with bad company and started using street drugs. Stupidest thing I ever did – I’d take that back if I could. My health got real bad and my weight was going up and down. I developed diabetes, heart and breathing problems, kidney disease, contracted hepatitis, and I was homeless. CEI saved my life. Before I got this apartment I was suicidal.”

– Mr. Burns, Age 65

About six years ago Mr. Burns happened to bump into an old neighborhood friend, who told him about the health care program she worked for, called Center for Elder’s Independence (CEI) in Oakland. That friend referred him to CEI’s enrollment staff, who referred him to community resources who helped him find stable housing so he could enroll in CEI-PACE in 2011.

“I thought I was going to a tupperware party, but it was much better than some silly old tupperware. It was a meeting for CEI. And then I fractured my hip and was in a nursing home for seven months. I desperately wanted to walk again and CEI provided everything a person could ask for – at the nursing home, at the hospital and back at my home. Home isn’t easy though, because my hands are very limited, they’re not as strong as they used to be, so laundry and mopping are a real challenge. I have somebody that comes in twice a week. My daughter takes me grocery shopping on Saturday and she pays for the food, and it’s beautiful to have her do that because I’m not sure how I’d be doing without it.”

– Mrs. Peppers, Age 89

In 2000, Mrs. Helen Peppers was diagnosed and treated at Summit Hospital for cancer in her lymph nodes, and again in 2005 for uterine cancer. Nine years ago, Marianne Foster from Oakland Housing Authority invited Helen to attend an open house for the Center for Elders’ Independence PACE program. After joining, Helen needed surgery on her hip which had started to hurt as result of all her radiation treatments and menopause. She spent seven months in a wheelchair while rehabilitating at the MacArthur Nursing Center.

“I had surgery for cancer twice, but I don’t dwell on that, I get up everyday and look for something that gives me life. I try to go and uplift somebody else’s life because I know what it’s like to be in a nursing home or rehab center. It’s a beautiful thing they have there at CEI, they bring everybody out so they’re not just watching TV all day long and getting depressed. I have a good friend there and we play dominoes; he beats me up some days and I beat him up others.”

– Mrs. Peppers, Age 89

Twice a week Mrs. Helen Peppers goes to the Josie Barrows Center for entertainment, socializing, and meals. The center is part of the Center for Elders’ Independence (CEI) PACE program and is located on the lower level of the Eastmont Mall complex in East Oakland, and provides senior care needs for residents of Hayward, East Oakland, San Leandro, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and neighboring communities.

“My husband was in the Navy on Treasure Island and he sent for me to come out from Virginia. It was 1947 and I was 18 years old and he was 17. The train pulled away from the station at 16th Street in Oakland; I remember how cool the weather felt in June. When I was a younger woman I loved to travel and it’s something I hope to be able to do in the future. I’m the oldest of ten children and I’m hoping to get back to Virginia and celebrate my 90th birthday with my two brothers and four sisters.”

 

– Mrs. Peppers, Age 89

Mrs. Helen Peppers lives alone at a Satellite Housing senior apartment building in Oakland’s Dimond neighborhood. Every Wednesday she volunteers at Pacific Heights Retirement Home in Oakland where she plays piano and sings “old church music for those that can’t get to church anymore”. Her highlight of every week is seeing older adults of many ethnicities and nationalities singing ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’.

“The drivers say, ‘Mary, when are you going to come to my bus?’ They still remember me. They would always ask me where I was going on the bus in such a hurry. I honestly did not know. I would go on the bus until I got tired and got off. There’s always someplace to go. All my life, I’m just not a homebound person; and I always find my way back.”

– Mary, Age 85

Mary used to use a bus system known as Pleasanton Paratransit. She is especially fond of one of the bus drivers, Gloria. Mary had a fall last year and is not strong enough to get back to riding the bus around town quite yet, so Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley’s Transportation Coordinator arranges for trips with a volunteer escort. Mary still enjoys saying hello to the bus drivers.

“My visitor is a very nice lady. I was lucky they assigned me this lady. Now she comes and sweeps my patio and cleans. I hope the Rotary will come again this year to help clean the windows. I used to do this myself, but now it’s not safe. The Rotary is very good at helping with this.”

– Mary, Age 85

A Friendly Visitor visits Mary in her home once or twice a week. They have visited for the past five years. Another part of the Friendly Visitor program includes Rotary Day, when volunteers help with heavy housework.

“I like the SOAR people very much. The ladies are very nice and courteous. Most of my friends in the states were from somewhere else, and I have friends in other countries. I used to live in Santa Barbara, and most of my friends are still in Santa Barbara. Now, I am with the wonderful Senior Support. The Fridays we have SOAR, I love it. It’s beautiful.”

– Mary, age 85

Mary’s favorite program is Stepping Out and Reconnecting (SOAR), a support group run by Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley that helps isolated older adults reconnect to themselves, each other, and the community.