Circus adds to awards program
In a prelude to Older Americans Month, which starts May 1, the Pleasanton Senior Center honored its volunteers last week in a festive "Salute to our Stars" that included an awards program with a circus complete with popcorn, face-painting, jugglers and a bean bag toss. For the 150 at the celebration, it was like sitting under the big top with all the fun these folks -- mostly in their 60s and 70s -- remembered from their elementary school days.
In fact, the program, arranged by the Senior Center's recreation coordinator Raymond Figueroa, featured the younger set that make up the Prescott Circus Theater. These are mostly students from Prescott Elementary School in Oakland, which sponsors an after-school program where they learn some of the arts of the circus, including how to juggle, walk on stilts and be clowns. After first mingling with those in the audience, the students moved their circus act to the stage in the center's main meeting room for a 25-minute performance.
Then it was awards time, with Carolyn Allen receiving this year's Nana Cohen Volunteer of the Year award. The award is named for Cohen, who ran Pleasanton's senior services program out of the Veterans Memorial Building in the 1970s and then moved it to the Senior Center when it opened in 1993. She retired three years later.
Allen, who was chosen to receive the award by the other 250 volunteers and 30 community partners who serve Pleasanton seniors, started her volunteer service in 1999 and has put in more than 1,500 hours of volunteer work since then. One of her favorite activities is leading the center's Mah-jongg group that keeps expanding. In choosing Allen, her peers wrote glowing reasons, such as "She's such a great ambassador ... always friendly ... always helpful and cheerful to newcomers."
Terri Sullivan, who teaches the second grade at Hearst Elementary School, was also honored with the senior peer group recognizing her for partnering with the Senior Center to start the Book Buddy program. She initiated the program in 1997 when she was a special education teacher at Alisal Elementary School, and then moved it into her second grade when she started teaching at Hearst. Each month, 25 in her second grade class walk across Case Avenue and through Ridge View Commons to reach the Senior Center, where they join 25 seniors in reading to each other. The reading program brings a lot of excitement and joy to both age groups and has become one of the most popular one-on-one programs involving seniors and students.
Mary Tange was also honored at last week's event for her "exceptional service." She has donated 4,400 hours of service to the senior community in Pleasanton over the last 12 years, starting her service in 2002 as the Senior Center's front desk greeter. She's often the first person we see when we go there and is also considered by her peers as a "great ambassador" because of the effort she makes to tell newcomers about services and programs offered there.
Figueroa, who is 50, has been No. 2 at the Senior Center for the last eight-and-a-half years since coming here from Oakland where he had more than 15 years of service working with seniors in skilled nursing and other activities. He works with the center's director Pam Deaton.