“We do not outgrow our need for others,” according to the MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America. Local groups help seniors celebrate the holidays in a variety of ways, offering creative solutions to help them avoid isolation during the holiday season.
Bring in the cheer
During the past 25 years, Metropolitan Family Service, which helps 30,000 people annually, has partnered with several organizations to support 235 isolated seniors and people with disabilities by sponsoring the annual Holiday Cheer Project. Multnomah County caseworkers, Project Linkage and Ride Share drivers, senior centers, and aging and disabilities services identify seniors who would benefit from the project. For the past 10 years, Project Linkage has received $1,000 from an anonymous donor to help fund gift items and edible treats, with a goal this year to distribute holiday cheer to 250 people in the community.
MFS also partners with the Portland chapter of the National Charity League, comprised of mothers with school-age daughters, to donate 100 dozen holiday cookies and 50 loaves of banana bread to distribute in gift bags they decorate.
Two Beaumont-Wilshire residents known as the “Crazy Quilt Ladies” make 25 quilts annually for the Holiday Cheer Project to distribute to seniors. Case workers and drivers help identify a need among clients for these uniquely crafted quilts.
Madeleine Church, 3123 N.E. 24th Ave., offers atrium space inside the church for volunteers to assemble gift bags on December 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. About 30 volunteers are needed for gift-wrapping and another 40 volunteers are needed to make deliveries between December 10 and 24. To volunteer: email gro.y1508515589limaf1508515589tem@r1508515589eetnu1508515589lov1508515589 or call (503) 688-1767.
Projects take perseverance and glue
From now until Christmas, the Salvation Army’s Rose Center, 211 N.E. 18th Ave. is hosting a workshop on Monday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, for participants to create a holiday tree made of jewelry mounted to a 16×20-inch fabric covered board, interlaced with small colored LED lights. Workshop instructor and Silvercrest Apartment resident Annmarie Wright said, “Students don’t have to be artsy or crafty, but the project takes perseverance and a lot of glue.”
A dozen students are enrolled to create holiday works of art from sparkly costume jewelry or family pieces. Rose Center volunteer Jim Harris cuts pieces of plywood and drills holes to insert a short string of battery-operated colored LED lights. Wright shops thrift stores for velvet dresses and skirts, then cuts pieces for participants to glue to the plywood backing. Wright obtained some costume jewelry from nearby Albertina’s Jewel Box, 424 N.E. 22nd Ave., breaking bracelets or necklaces, and removing the backs from jeweled pins to mount to the fabric board.
Last year, Mt. Tabor resident Sherry Pfaff and her sister inherited 4,500 pieces of jewelry which they’ll use to make holiday trees for family members. Pfaff’s mother was a painter who owned several easels that Pfaff will use to display these artworks.
The Rose Center offers a variety of other activities for seniors to celebrate the holidays, including a trip on December 4 to Alpenrose Dairy. “I remember as a child going to Storybook Lane with its fairytale setting and live animals,” said Rose Center director Becky Bitah.
On November 19 at 10:30 a.m., the Rose Center will host a discussion about holiday wellness as part of their conversation on aging series. It’s free and available to people 60 years and older. For more information: See salvationarmyportland.org or call (503) 239-1281.
Chorus strives for harmony
Satori, a chorus comprised of 30 men, many of whom are seniors from a wide variety of faiths and politics, sing a wide range of musical genres, including classical, jazz, folk and gospel. “Satori is all about support and acceptance,” said Roger Nesbit who’s been a member of the chorus for the past four years. “We strive for harmony through our music.”
Satori was founded in 1993 by David York and others who organized the group as “Men Singing Peace.” Members aren’t required to read music, but they must be able to match pitch according to Rob Shinney, a founding member who sings first tenor. Shinney prepares a big Christmas Eve meal for family and friends, featuring ham locally sourced by Marcus Wolf. Wolf takes a limited number of orders and can be reached at (503) 704-5430.
Ron Sherwood, a resident of Holiday Park Plaza, 1300 N.E. 16th Ave., had sung and performed musical theater before responding to a newspaper ad for Satori 12 years ago. He also sings with the HPP choir, and often brings a busload of residents to enjoy Satori concerts. “Satori concerts are a way to build community,” said Sherwood, who acknowledged that Satori members support members who are in crisis or need help.
Nesbit said they won’t turn down anyone who can’t pay the ticket price for a Satori concert, and noted that those who attended concerts were often inspired to try out and join. Both Nesbit and Sherwood sing bass and would like to grow Satori to 50 members. “Ideally we’d have 12 singers per part,” said Nesbit. “New members can attend rehearsals before committing to join, but they have to be willing to do the work, and they’ll get a lot of support,” said Sherwood.
Susan Dorn, who previously sang with the Portland Opera chorus, begins her 12th season as Satori’s artistic director and Ben Milstein is the accompanist. For more information: See satorichorus.org or call (503) 242-4244.