Student-Catered lunch: Charlottesville Senior Center

Posted November 29, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Community Plans: Older-Americans, Intergenerational projects, Senior Centers

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On Thursday, November 19, 2009, I attended a monthly luncheon at the Charlottesville Senior Center.  It was catered by students from the Culinary Arts program at Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC).


The reason I drove the 120 miles from my home in Williamsburg to attend?  Well….I had heard during my first visit to the Center that the Seniors and students have struck-up a solid and mutually beneficial relationship as a result of this arrangement that was started two years ago.  I wanted to see the workings of this intergenerational community service effort and to interview participants from both age groups.  OH…..and to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of the students’ labor!!!:  the Thanksgiving faire buffet.

When I arrived in Charlottesville that rainy morn about 10:30, I went directly to the school, hoping to observe last minute mad-dash prepping and loading and transferring hot and cold foods to the Center.  Instead, I met a calm, organized, unharried, and personable Chef/Instructor Robert “Bob” Bressan.  Chef gave me a congenial, but quick, tour of the classroom and kitchen area, along with a brief overview of class expectations and accomplishments.  This busy and dynamic teacher pointed out that his students began arriving at 7 AM to prepare turkeys, pies, veggies, and more for the Senior Center catered lunch, as well as for other catered events on their busy agenda!  The team that was assigned to the Center’s luncheon were already delivering and setting-up for service at noon…….it was I who was running LATE!!!

Oh, boy….as interesting as it was at the school, I had to wean myself from this vibrant learning center and scurry to the luncheon site, promising Chef that I would return later.

At the Center, I noticed that there were several Seniors (6) who were volunteering to help the students set tables and generally organize.  A team of ten students were quietly and efficiently setting-up the food service line on one side of the large room and beverage and dessert services in another area.  It was apparent that they were organized and purposeful in setting-up and replenishment tasks throughout the service process – without any visible supervision.  I noticed that the Senior volunteers worked closely with the students just as quietly and efficiently as the students worked as a team. 

My table-mates: From Left: Peggy Harris, Marge Haugen, Dona McMullen, Vince McMullen, Alice Clements, Margaret C. Norford (hidden), Elise K. Brigham

Margaret Fitch, 63, the Program Coordinator for the Senior Center, emphasized that the Seniors “really like” the luncheons that the students prepare.  She also let me know that the students are always “clean and neat and act professional” when serving and cleaning-up. 

After the luncheon was served, I witnessed the same efficient and organized clean-up activities with students and Seniors working shoulder to shoulder.  Florence Bosworth, 75, who regularly volunteers at the luncheons, said that she really likes having the students do the catering, “I learn from them…..but I can help them, too… how to clean a clump of potatoes off the spoon,” she laughed, heartily, “just WHACK it!”  She also pointed out that the students are always “so neat and professional” and the food they bring is always “really good.”

My table mates being served.

From the students’ perspective, according to William Peterson, 17 (a 2nd year student), working with the Seniors “you learn as you go…. be aware of what is needed for conversation…..(sometimes) you have to talk a little louder and more clearly.”  William emphasized that what they learn from this experience is valuable; it stresses the importance of “communication between team members and the people you’re working for” in order to deliver what the client wants, on time, and with the quality expected.  William assists Chef Bressan at times, as a kitchen manager to help organize tasks and to oversee procedures.

Another student, Lloyd Ford, 20 (2nd year PostGrad) emphasizes that the most important skills he has learned from these community service events, besides communication skills, are “speed and quality” in all aspects of the catering business.  Learning to work efficiently and effectively as a team to deliver a quality service and product are skills that all of these students will take into their work  and study environments.

Back at the school, Chef Bressan related that he owned and operated a successful catering business in Charlottesville for over 30 years.  He came to a point in his life when he decided that he wanted to “give something back to the community” that supported him for so many years.  So, with a “high interest in community service”, Chef Bressan developed an existing cooking skills class into a Culinary Arts program that “meets expectations equivalent to Culinary School.”  Over an eight year period, Chef Bressan and his students have received many awards and honors and other recognitions for their community service projects, catering of small and large events, and student competitions.  The students are encouraged to enhance their classroom skills by being involved with a wide variety of educational opportunities in their homes, schools, and community. 

Chef/Culinary Arts Instructor Robert "Bob" Bressan

From Left: William Peterson, Chef Robert Bressan

I found this High School educational program to be so interesting and so valuable to the students AND the community that I wanted to gather more information and share it with you.  Another post will be forthcoming.

THANK YOU, Chef Bressan and your students for allowing me to observe and to speak with all of you.  And THANK YOU, Charlottesville Senior Center for your welcoming me into your kind fold.  I really appreciate all your help in allowing me to see this successful intergenerational community service project.

Any questions: Please leave me a comment, suggestions on other interesting projects that may be in your area, your story, or whatever is on your mind!

If you wish to contact someone at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC):  Ph (434) 973-4461 

If you wish to contact someone at the Senior Center, Charlottesville:  (434) 974-7756


Senior Center,Inc: Charlottesville, Part I

Posted November 21, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: LifeLong Learning, Senior Centers, Senior Living

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The October 23, 2009 meeting of the Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg featured a spokesperson for the Jefferson Area Board On Aging (JABA) located in Charlottesville.  Curious about what else is working for the older-Americans in that area, I decided to take an explorative trip to that area in early November.

I found and visited the dynamic Senior Center, Inc located at 1180 Pepsi Place in Charlottesville.

During my visit, I spoke with volunteers at the front desk who gave me LOTS of energetic, positive, and valuable information about the Center, its members, staff, numerous activities, and community involvements.

With over 2,000 members (about 1,000 are really ACTIVE), the daily mood is vibrant, exhilorating, and expectant of things to do and to look forward to!!!

The Center was founded in 1960.  (Several members have proudly announced that they celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2010.)  It is a volunteer-run organization that does not receive any Federal funding.  Supporters are local businesses and individuals, as well as paid members.  The Center is the first nationally accredited senior center in Virginia and the 84th nationally.

To keep members ACTIVE and interested, the Center provides over 100 on-going programs and services in a wide variety of topics included in these categories:

Lifelong Learning;  Creative Arts;  Benefits;  Recreational and Social;  Health and Fitness; and Partner Organizations

Member Elise K. Brigham, an energetic 76, shared that she has volunteered at the Center for over 10 years.  Currently, she answers phones in the office when she’s not playing Bridge, exercising in either the arthritis program or three-times-a-week in another program, volunteering at a hospital, or interacting with Kindergarteners in their reading program.   She said, “the children read to ME, then take the book home to read to their parents.” 

Elise also told me that her involvement with school children is coordinated by JABA through a special program: Friends in Schools Helping (FISH).  The program places seniors in schools to provide tutoring, or the senior spends time with students in question and answer sessions where the senior shares what is happening or happened in their life.  She sees where the students develop an understanding of the older person’s lives and it helps the young people to communicate better with the seniors.  Elise says that she loves this opportunity to interact with the younger people.

I also learned that high school students in the Culinary Arts program at Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) cater the Center’s monthly luncheon.  The seniors I spoke with all believe that the Seniors, as well as the students, benefit a great deal from this cooperative endeavor.  I HAD to look into this arrangement and the CATEC Culinary Arts program, so I decided to attend the next luncheon on November 19, which will be in a separate post.

Well, as you can see, my explorative trip was productive.  I learned about an active and strong, well-organized and focused organization that is extremely successful in providing on-going services and programs for their older-American community.  Among their extensive objectives is to keep the senior population interactive with the overall community – including the school age citizens.  As I learn more about this organization, I will share with you so that you may use some of this information to perhaps integrate what is being done that is successful.

Thank you.

To get more information on Senior Center, Inc. in Charlottesville, Virginia refer to:

To get more information on Jefferson Area Board on Aging, refer to:

To get more information on the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) at 434-973-4461.

Please let me know if you have any questions that you would like me to research.  More information on these organizations will be in future posts, as well as my observations and comments, along with interviews with members, staff, or students of each.

Senior Services Coalition: Part III

Posted November 18, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Community Plans: Older-Americans, Senior Living

Tags: , , ,

In this post I consolidated information particular to three of the four Issues identified by the Community Action Plan on Aging (CAPOA).  The fourth issue will be discussed in the next post.  Included are some questions and thoughts relative to each issue.

The issues covered in this post are:  1.  Awareness of and Access to Resources; 2.  Vulnerable Seniors; and 3.  Housing and Neighborhood Support.

First, a restatement of the Mission of the Coalition:  to promote the independence of Seniors, coalition members will collaborate to build, sustain,  and support a comprehensive Senior Services system in James City County, Williamsburg and Upper York County.

Issue 1:  Awareness of and Access to Resources

    DESCRIPTION:  Helping seniors and caregivers to access local community resources

    GOAL OF SSC:  Increase the incidence of seniors to live independently by “promoting coordinated and accessible resources for healthcare and support services.”

Currently, there are local initiatives in place to address this issue:

No Wrong Door;; and United Way Help Line.

My questions:  How does the availability of these providers get to the seniors?  How do the seniors ACCESS the help available?  What services are provided by each?  Counseling?  Phone lists of other service providers, resources?  Face to Face contact?  Are records kept to document the type of services requested and used by seniors?  Are records kept to show where these seniors are living?  Is there an on-going Outreach element to maintain contact with independent seniors?

What exactly does the SSC expect to implement concerning this issue that is different from services already provided?  Are results measurable?  What are the measurements of success?

Issue 2:  Vulnerable Seniors

    DESCRIPTION:  Focus on the needs of “hidden populations” including isolated and frail, low-income, and those with mental health problems.


    1.  Increase availability and awareness of opportunities to address matters of seniors’ social isolation.   (WHAT?)

    2.  Establish a PACE-like model to expand a safety-net and continuum of care to serve more seniors.

    3.  Enhance supportive services

Existing services and resources to meet needs of this issue:

    SHARP;  The Chronic Care Collaborative – Olde Towne Medical, Lackey Free Medical Clinic, and Angels of Mercy;  PACE;  Meals on Wheels, and Historic Triangle Substance Abuse Coalition

NOTE:  I have to research SHARP and PACE in order to know the meaning of the acronyms.

It seems to me that there are existing local organizations that are specifically suited to provide services for seniors.  It also appears by reading over the Goals that the SSC wishes to become an oversight entity of these service providers, while also tyring to add to their value in minute and confusing ways. 

It is my opinion, at this time, that seniors would be better served by the existing organizations’/services’ updating their own programs and services to meet the demands of the growing, aging population. 

Issue 3:  Housing and Neighborhood Support

    DESCRIPTION:  Offering affordable and accessible housing options, as well as, designing neighborhoods to be age-friendly.

    GOALS of SSC: 

    1.  Provide a variety of quality, affordable and accessible housing options within the community

    2.  Support neighborhoods in maintaining or establishing outreach efforts

Existing initiatives in local area:

    Parker View Housing Complex;  Neighborhood Connections in James City County; and  The Neighborhood Council in Williamsburg

How does the SSC, as a group of networking service providers, expect to “Offer” and “Provide” and “Design” affordable and accessible housing with a high degree of credibility and impact without first establishing itself as an arm of the local government for building permits, planning, zoning and building codes?  Will this Coalition actually be effective in a focused effort of lobbying for affordable housing at city, county, and perhaps, state meetings?  Will this Coalition gather the information necessary to design affordable, accessible senior communities in accordance with what the affected seniors actually need and want?

At this point, this endeavor by the SSC sounds to be wanton wishing:  wantin’ funding to support an organization that cannot be focused and effective in its desired task. 

 Generally, I think it is commendable and useful to INFLUENCE policy by the data and information you’ve amassed  relative to what is being done, currently, by member organizations, as well as using their predictions for the future that will impact their ability to deliver the same services, while also expanding services to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population of Seniors – who, according to recent information, will have more severe health problems than those experienced by Seniors now.

What are your thoughts?  Do you see something I am missing in my evaluation?  What is being done where you live to prepare the community and services for the Age Wave of Older-Americans???


Senior Services Coalition: Part II

Posted November 17, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Community Plans: Older-Americans, Senior Living

Tags: , ,

As previously reported, I attended a meeting of the Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg (SSC) on October 23, 2009.

As a result of that meeting, I wanted to learn more about what this group expects to contribute to the plight of our local (Williamsburg, Virginia) Older-Americans in the coming years.

The foremost question I have is:  What is this group really trying to achieve that is different from what is already being done?

From my initial contact, it appears to me that the paid membership is comprised entirely of organizations (for profit or non-profit) that,  in some way,  provide services to or somehow affect or oversee services and resources for the older consumer.  There is a reduced membership fee for individuals, however, I believe the fee ($50 per year) to be prohibitive for those citizens who are affected the most and who could contribute valuable user-information from their life experience.

At this time, it also appears to me that the work of this organization is being done upon the older community rather than along with it.  My question:  How can the issues that are affecting seniors be addressed accurately and with the passions of need and immediacy if you are not in intimate, on-going contact with those who are affected?  It seems to me that the result of efforts done independent of the target community would tend to benefit the organizers at the expense of the target.

I had to quell these concerns by looking at what the Coalition has done so far and how what they want to do is described.

On their website: is a great deal of information that I was seeking.

I learned that the SSC was created to:  Priority #1: provide opportunity to network (among other providers of senior services).  Matters covered in meetings would be to plan collaborative activities and to become informed of the status of programs.  Initially, therefore, the SSC was focusing on three (3) issues affecting seniors:

1.  Employment

2.  Addiction

3.  Housing

Evidently, Issue 1 is satisfied by the Williamsburg Workforce Center and The United Way and Issue 2 is handled by the Historic Triangle Substance Abuse Coalition.  I’m left wondering if SSC has any muscle to intercede on behalf of the elders who are not amply served by those organizations.

On the face of things, I do not see a focused, concentrated effort on the SSC’s part to gather information specific to Seniors relative to Issues 1 and 2.  How many seniors have been served in the past year?  Current year?  Age range?  Particular problems addressed?  Service provided?  Follow-up?  Results in each case.  Feedback from affected seniors. 

Does the SSC see as part of their service/mission gathering information on how seniors are served with current resources?

The only way the community can evaluate the value and function of service providers is to know WHAT has been done.  The only way the community can know WHAT deficiencies exist in services is to know the results.  If the SSC would develop Base Line Accomplishments for Seniors NOW, that information would be instrumental in creating more effective systems for an ever-increasing population of needy consumers.

In my next post, I will discuss in more depth the Impact Issues identified by the Community Action Plan on Aging (CAPOA).

Are you or someone you know affected by the Older-American services provided and the resources available (or need to be available) where you live?

Do you have suggestions on what I need to research in order to help wherever and however I can in this process?

Thank you.

Senior Services Coalition: Williamsburg, Virginia

Posted November 11, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Community Plans: Older-Americans, Senior Living, Senior Statistics

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Now that I need to be aware of what services and resources are available to me in my community, I watch the newspaper announcements for special meetings. 

One day, I noticed that a group, Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg, was having their quarterly meeting the next week.  Curious about the ‘coalition’ aspect, I made a mental note to attend.  I wondered if a friend who was on a medical leave from her job would be interested, also……she was.

So, on October 23, 2009, we made our ways to the United Methodist Church for a 2 PM meeting.

We were met by a vibrant group of people who were excited to see more interest from the community.  We were invited to participate in any way we could to help study issues, set plans of action, and to implement those plans in our community……and we hadn’t even attended the meeting yet!!!

The mission of the coalition is “to promote the independence of seniors, Coalition members will collaborate to build, integrate, sustain and support a comprehensive senior services system……to promote a healthier and safer community for seniors.”

In order to realize this mission, the Coalition, in collaboration with other organizations who offer specialized services for the Senior population, generated a Williamsburg Community Action Plan on Aging (CAPOA): 2010-2020.  The CAPOA identified 4 Issues (Priority Areas):

1.  Awareness and Access to Resources

2.  Vulnerable Seniors

3.  Housing and Neighborhood Support

4.  Seniors as a Resource

Committees were established in a previous meeting with their initial meetings being held prior to the October General Meeting.  Committee reports were given at this meeting, which in every case, indicated that besides identifying the goals to be achieved, not much more has been done at this time.  An Implementation Committee has the task of overseeing progress within and among the Issue Committees.  Implementation will also answer the question:  How do we bring this to LIFE??

My friend and I left with an open mind of expectation.  I knew that I needed to do a lot of research so I would have a better understanding of the PURPOSE of this Coalition and its place in our Greater Williamsburg Senior Community. 

The speaker at the meeting was Julie Ulrich, Community Planner, with Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA), in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The information Julie presented was rich and voluminous.  I knew I had to learn MORE.  After the meeting adjourned, I asked Julie if I could visit her in Charlottesville in order to learn more about how they were implementing their plans in that area.  Another blog post will report more on JABA.

Stay tuned and give me some feedback, comments about what you have learned in your area, what you are doing at this crossroads in your life.

Researching blog subjects/niches

Posted November 11, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Blog Journal, LifeLong Learning, Senior Living, Senior Statistics

Tags: , , ,

When I became cautiously active in starting a blog, I spent some time evaluating different subjects I could cover.  Confused and disappointed, eventually, I took the sound advice of Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett in their valuable book, “ProBlogger”:  “start by identifying (my) own interests, passions, and energy levels for topics.” (pg 18)

I realized that two subjects in particular are special and of value to me. Each would have audiences who would be interested in good content.  The first would be about the evolving life reality for all Aging people (Seniors). The second would be about Country Music Living Legend, George Strait.

So….that done, I began in earnest prepping myself for this new era in my life.

Living as a Senior: Williamsburg, VA

Posted November 11, 2009 by Gayle Snyder
Categories: Blog Journal, LifeLong Learning, Senior Living, Senior Statistics

Tags: ,

There is a new world awaiting me as a Senior.  For the years between 55 and 65, I chose to bury my head in other things so I didn’t have to think too much about being 65 and older.  I believe that I truly thought I wouldn’t live long enough to experience this (frequent, scary headaches since I was young, high cholesterol, high blood pressure – and I refuse to take ‘meds’ in spite of dire warnings about strokes and such). 

It wasn’t until I shut down a long career as a Realtor, a couple friends moved states away, and some other friends were learning new skills, were being active in volunteering, special interests, and LifeLong Learning groups, that I began to seriously think of what I really wanted to do.  My situation also requires that I earn some money to help with overhead!!

After studying and trying a few different job options, I began a research project on ME.  I asked myself, “What have I not had the opportunity to do that I really want to do and could possibly earn an income from it?

And…..could I do this on my own time and schedule?  Also….it can’t involve undue hardship on my body, but would provide contact with the public and result in a service that will have positive impact on others and myself.

Well……wandering through a Barnes and Noble’s store one day with my Spiritual Companion, I prayed silently, “Lord, help me find my passion and my talent.”  Suddenly, before me on an end-piece display was a selection of books on the subject of internet based careers.  My eyes went directly to a book titled “ProBlogger” by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett.  The subtitle sold it to me!!!:  “Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I could actually write and be instantly published and have an opportunity to not only positively impact thousands of people, but help myself in so many ways.

Oh, boy…..I thought, at least a thousand times as I read my way through the book…..I could NEVER learn how to do ALL the recommended things necessary to be extremely successful.  But, then, I thought, “What if I earned only about $500 a month for each of two blogs?  That would mean I wouldn’t have to work a part-time job that brutalizes my aging legs and body for a pittance wage and gives me no satisfaction in other ways.  Also, with doing research, interviewing people, attending various meetings, tracking current events and then writing my posts would be teaching me new skills along with what I already know.  After all, I have always wanted to produce valuable works of the written word… is my big chance!

So……I began a fantastic voyage the first week of November 2009 by setting up two blogs.  Hello my new life living as a Senior in Williamsburg, Virginia.