The Spanish Senior Center in Northwest Washington helps elderly Hispanos with language problems seek aid from city agencies and other senior centers, and offers them a wide range of bilingual social and supportive services.
The center, at 1842 Calvert St. NW near 18th Street and Columbia Road, has been in operation four years and provides services that include out-reach and educational programs, sewing, crafts, English classes, recreation, friendly visiting, counseling, transportation, gardening in its backyard, day trips, shopping excursions every month and information and referral. It also serves as a nutrition site, offering 35 bot lunches daily, Monday through Friday.
"This is the only senior center for the spanish that I know of in the whole metropolitan area," said Emma lopez, the project director.
In fiscal 1977, 903 persons were served at the facility, all of them from minority groups and with incomes below the poverty level. The $57,000 allotted to operate it was provided by a grant from the D.C. Office on Aging. Lopez said the Spanish center is one of many programs organized by EOFULA, the Educational Organization for the United Latin Americans.
She estimated that the center serves about 75 people a day in one capacity or another. The elderly who have lunch there are "mostly people from Wards 1 and 4 at lunch, but our other services are offered to people around the city," Lopez said. the hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We try to solve all their needs," she said." "And if we are unable to help them we refer them to someone who can help."
The center offers naturalization classes for those who are interested in becoming U.S. citizens. Case workers often visit D.C. government offices with the elderly to translate and help with problems involving Medicaid, food stamps, housing and other needs.
A psychologist, caseworker and social worker from St. Elizabeths Hospital and from private organizations visit the center several times a month to provide mental health counseling. A visiting nurse comes every two months to check blood pressures of the elderly.
The center employs several elderly citizens as senior aides, who are paid by a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) grant and by the National Council of Senior Citizens. "They act as lunch aides, office personnel and caseworkers," Lopez said.
"We try to maintain our culture," she said, citing the center's gardening project as an example. "Most of our countries are agricultural. The People enjoy gardening in our yar. It reminds them of home."
At one point the center served ethnic foods as part of the hot lunch program, but it has been unable to find a cook to continue. The center sponsors a group that travels to other locations, performing music and dances from South and Central American countries.
Lopez said the center often sponsors trips to Annapolis, Pennsylvania Dutch country and local historic sites.
"I like everything about it ," Felisa Reynal said of the center. She has been visiting it for about three years. During an interview, she was making croacheted flowers for the annual bazaar, which will be held June 21 at the Calvert Street office.
John Rostonkowski, a Mount Pleasant resident, said he had been coming to the center for about a year. He is one of the few non-Hispanic participants in the programs. "I like the people very much I especially enjoy the trips," he said. Rostonkowsi said his inability to speak Spanish was not a problem in communicating with others at the center.
Frances Zabia, one of the senior aides, works four hours a day as the receptionist. A native of Argentina, she said she has "been coming to the center for 2 1/2 years. I like to help on the shows," she added.
Raquel Reyes, who designs greeting cards for the bazaars, said, "I've been coming to the center for two years and I enjoy all the activities."
In addition to its other services, the center maintains a register of elderly Hispanos in the District. "I want them to know that we exist if they need assistance," Lopez said.
The center needs volunteers to work with the elderly or to teach English classes, Lopez said. For more information, call 483-5800.