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Guest speaker, Lewis Brown of the Tehachapi Senior Center

Rotary Club of Tehachapi

The Rotary Club of Tehachapi recently welcomed Lewis Brown as their guest speaker when they met for their weekly gathering of food and fellowship.

Brown, now retired, has had a rich and varied professional life, which included serving in the Air Force as a firefighter stationed in Roswell, New Mexico. In 1971, he bought land in Stallion Springs and moved there in 2009. He currently sits on the board of the Tehachapi Community Theater and has been the board president of the Tehachapi SENIOR CENTER since 2014. It was on behalf of the Senior Center that Brown spoke to the Rotary Club on July 15.

Over the years, the little structure at 500 East F Street has alternately been a family residence, a laundromat and a grocery store. In September 1981, ground was broken for the annex to the original house and the resulting structure was the Senior Center as we know it today. The doors were officially opened in March 1982 and the Center has been serving the Tehachapi community ever since.

The Senior Center is a place where people can gather to socialize, exercise and enjoy a hot lunch. In 1982, the original board had a goal to recruit 50 members in two years. Today, the Center has over 350 members on the roster. Coming back from the COVID-19 shutdown, things are starting to feel more like normal again.

The Senior Center's mission statement is to improve and enhance the quality of life for seniors in Tehachapi and surrounding valleys and communities, provide the necessary tools with education to keep skills and minds alert, and to maintain self-sufficiency to perform daily tasks. To improve seniors' mental health and well-being by providing a secure, safe place where they may meet and get nutritional meals, physical exercise and participate in social activities and recreational programs with other seniors.

So, how do they live up to their mission statement? The Center provides hot meals every weekday for $3. If one cannot afford to pay, then it's provided for free. This includes the Meals on Wheels program, which community volunteers deliver to 20 to 30 households, depending on how many people need this service.

Brown stressed that the Senior Center seeks to be an activity center, not just a gathering place to come and sit around. To this end, twice a week they offer exercise (or stretch) classes. They try to accommodate everyone, so participants can stand or sit while exercising. Twice a month, they offer a Mindful Wellness class. Card games, including pinochle, bridge and poker, are enjoyed every Tuesday. On Thursdays, seniors come together for social knitting and crocheting. There is line dancing on Monday afternoons. There are also classes such as Grief Support and Respite Caregiving.

Donations are vital to keeping the Senior Center operational. Donations have traditionally come from local organizations and community members who see the value of what the Center brings to Tehachapi and want to keep the momentum going. Annual membership is also an important way for the Center to generate funds. Membership is open to anyone 50 years old or older for $25 per year. Brown stated that they are always accepting applications for new membership. If you have been on the fence about joining, it's time to sign up! The Center holds a fundraising dinner every third Friday of the month. Although that was essentially shut down during the pandemic, they are planning to revive the practice as things begin to open back up. The Senior Center also produces a monthly newsletter and offers advertising as another way to generate income.

If you're wondering how you can help support the Senior Center, you can make donations, become a member or sponsor the membership of someone who cannot afford to pay. Brown joked that the Center is open to any form of support that's legal.

For more information on becoming a member or how you can be supportive of the Senior Center, call (661) 822-5412 or stop by 500 East F Street, Tehachapi, during normal operational hours.

The Rotary Club of Tehachapi is a volunteer service organization with the motto "Service Above Self." The club has 30 members and are currently meeting virtually on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. If you would like more information about Rotary Club, you can visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/RotaryClubofTehachapi/ or contact club President Paul Kaminski, (661) 699-5851.