The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

In early January, St. Paul’s Towers honored Eric Hubert with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 50 years of service. Both as a former staff member as well as a long-time resident, Hubert’s impact on the Towers’ can be felt to this day.

Originally from Orange, Texas, Hubert was working as an administrator at an Episcopal Church in Oklahoma when he first learned about St. Paul’s Towers. During a visit to Los Angeles to introduce then-Governor Ronald Reagan on behalf of the National Association of Church Business Administrators, Hubert met Father Darby Betts. Betts, who co-founded Covia (then called the Episcopal Homes Foundation), invited Hubert up to Oakland to see the retirement community that he was building, St. Paul’s Towers.

After introducing Hubert to Oakland and his new community, Betts invited Hubert to become the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers as well as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the parish next door –starting the very next day! Hubert said “of course,” a decision that would bring him permanently to Oakland, the city he still calls home.

During his first few months on the job, Hubert lived with the Betts family in their home in Piedmont while he searched for an apartment. It was the start of a lifelong friendship with Betts. “We became brothers,” Hubert notes. “Working with Dr. Betts was the greatest experience.”

As the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert helped create the groundwork for what flourishes to this day. He hired the first 100 employees across all five departments, interviewing each to make sure that they were a good fit for the community and would fully support the residents. During his time as administrator, Hubert also spoke about St. Paul’s Towers to raise awareness for the community and planned programming.

The programs that Hubert is proudest of are the music concerts held every Monday night. As with all of the programming that he brought to the community, he worked hard to make sure that he was bringing in experienced professionals to share their craft. Now, as a resident, he enjoys the same quality of music that he helped usher into the community at its start.

As a founding member of St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert not only interviewed staff interested in working in the community, but met with prospective residents as well. The aspect that Hubert always stressed to people considering the community is that St. Paul’s Towers is a place where “residents don’t lose their independence.” In his work as an administrator, working on staffing, programming, and more, Hubert made sure that the community was a space where residents could live with the same level of independence as they had experienced living in their own homes.  

After 23 years as an administrator for the St. Paul’s parish and the St. Paul’s Towers community, Hubert retired from the position. Looking back, Hubert says, “I loved every moment of those 23 years.” In honor of all of his hard work and all he had done for the community, as a retirement gift, St. Paul’s Towers raised the money to send him on a month long trip to Europe to say thank you. He spent most of his trip in London though he did sneak over to Paris, where he had previously spent time while in the army as Secretary to the Signal Officer.

The trip brought back memories of this previous time in Europe, including when he sold Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein a pack of cigarettes for $30 at a lecture. “I never went out without cigarettes, soap, and a bar of chocolate,” Hubert says. Though he never smoked, he would sell the cigarettes so he could buy tickets to the opera.  

Hubert’s love of art and culture extended into his impact on the wider Bay Area community. He served as a trustee for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California as well as supporting the symphony and other cultural institutions. His work across these organizations is invaluable and something that he looks back on fondly. In both his time at St. Paul’s Towers and the wider community, Hubert notes, “anything that I could get involved in, I was. Seeing where I could give my talents and leadership.”

After retiring, Hubert returned to St. Paul’s Towers as a resident because he “wanted to be in the best place.” “We tried to make St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s Towers exemplary” he says, and he believes “the same philosophy and policies hold today.” His hard work and dedication are clear within the community, from the enduring programming to Hubert’s favorite part of the community, “the caring staff.”

The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day, a holiday devoted to raising awareness of women’s heart health. The holiday, which falls on February 7th this year, is put on by the American Heart Association as a reminder of the threat of heart disease and stroke. It corresponds with February as National Heart Health Month.  

In honor of the holiday, we’re sharing some simple tips that can make a difference for heart health as well as highlighting how Spring Lake Village is celebrating on February 7th.

Heart Health Tips

Improving heart health may sound like a daunting task but there are a number of easy to adopt changes that can have a positive impact on the heart.

One way to increase heart health and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease is to seek out social connections. Loneliness and isolation can directly contribute to cardiovascular disease so it’s important to regularly connect with family and friends. This can be as easy as going out to coffee with a good friend or connecting over the phone with someone you care about.

Programs like Well Connected and Social Call provide great options to stay connected. Connect with people who share a mutual interest through Well Connected’s variety of weekly sessions or find a new acquaintance to connect with in person or over the phone through Social Call. These programs have the added benefit that they can help forge new connections all while being easily accessed from your home.

Stress has a direct impact on heart health, which means it is important to find the ways to manage stress that work best for you. This could be engaging in calming activities like journaling and meditation or talking through your stress with a mental health professional or spiritual leader. Staying active can be another great way to manage stress as well as directly contributing to heart health in and of itself.

On top of its abilities to mitigate stress, exercise and movement can also strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system. The key is finding the type of movement that brings you joy. Running, taking walks, or participating in a sport are the most commonly acknowledged ways to move, but other hobbies like gardening or birdwatching also keep you active. Think about what hobbies bring you joy that also keep your body active and make the choice to incorporate them more often into your daily life.  

On top of moving, managing your stress, and staying connected, being in touch with your body and knowing the signs of a heart attack are crucial to staying healthy. Consult with your doctor so that you are aware of your own heart health and any chronic conditions that may affect your heart. It’s also important to review the signs of a heart attack and keep in mind that warning signs can differ between men and women. 

Keeping these tips in mind can be the start to prioritizing heart health as well as possibly leading to a new friend or learning about an exciting new hobby.

National Wear Red Day at Spring Lake Village

Spring Lake Village “promotes heart healthy living on an ongoing basis by promoting healthy eating, managing stress, exercising” and more, notes Director of Wellness Diane Waltz. National Wear Red Day provides the perfect opportunity to put special emphasis on how this is done. In honor of the holiday, many Friday classes and events incorporate heart health topics and residents and staff are encouraged to wear red around the community.

During morning exercise classes on February 7th, residents reflected on heart healthy lifestyle choices and heart attack symptoms as part of their brain fitness challenge. They also spelled National Wear Red Day backwards and discussed how knowing the warning signs of a heart attack is helpful not only for self-identification but also so they can recognize the signs in others and directly administer help.

Beyond promoting heart health and raising awareness, the holiday hits close to home for some residents and staff who choose to participate to honor family and friends’ struggles with heart related conditions.

Human Resources Director Dee Ann Hyatt wears red for her great niece Alexandria who “was born in 2013 with a rare and complex congenital heart defect. Her doctors said that if she was born just ten years ago, she probably wouldn’t be here today.” Alexandria has gone through open heart surgery as well as multiple procedures but today she is a vibrant, active, and smart 1st grader who “is so full of life.” Hyatt participates in National Wear Red Day for her niece and families who have received a devastating diagnosis with the hope that they know “that they are not alone.”

No matter the reason to celebrate, National Wear Red Day creates a visual reminder that heart health is important and that by making simple, informed decisions, we can make a difference each day. Check out the Spring Lake Village Facebook page for more examples of heart healthy activities and visit the American Heart Association website to learn more about heart health, tips and tricks, and National Wear Red Day.

* Heart health tips pulled from Casey Westbrook’s Spring Lake Village Newsletter article “Wellness Matters: Heart Health Month”

For twelve years, the San Francisco Towers’ Pet Club has been meeting to provide a forum for the community’s pet owners to find support and make positive change for their furry friends.

The Pet Club began in 2007, spearheaded by SFT resident Adrienne Jonas, so that residents with pets could connect and support one another. The club’s activities include maintaining an accurate list of the pets that live within the community, having backups in place to take care of pets should anything happen to a resident, advocating for pets’ needs within the community, and creating a space to discuss mutual interests and ideas connected to pets.

Jonas believes that “the best part of pet owners getting together is the support we give each other and the exchange of ideas and information.” All residents with pets are invited to attend Pet Club and a portion of the club is also made up of ‘pet pals,’ residents who don’t have pets but enjoy animals and help take care of other residents’ pets if they are unable.   

One of the main goals of the Pet Club is to support residents and their pets if a situation arises where the resident cannot take care of their pet. This is handled in two ways. First: all pet owners are required to have at least two people on file that can take care of a pet, should the resident be unable to provide that care. Second: the Pet Club coordinates support for a resident’s pet in any emergency or unforeseen circumstances. This gives pet owners at SFT the peace of mind that their furry friends will always be taken care of. 

The Pet Club supports not only residents who own pets but anyone at SFT who might encounter a pet. This is done through their Pet Policy that was put in place “to protect both the pet owners and non-pet owners, and to ensure that the animals themselves receive responsible care.” The policy ensures that everyone at SFT can live comfortably within the community through general policies such as that “cats and dog must be on a leash or carried at all times when in public areas” as well as more community-specific policies like “refraining from washing pet bedding in the common washing machines.”

The Pet Club has made real change within the community, not only with their policies but also with their advocacy. Many SFT residents were wary about taking their pet out for walks in unpleasant weather or at night. The Pet Club addressed this issue by advocating to SFT management for an enclosed dog run. Their work was successful and residents now have access to ‘The Dog Park,’ an AstroTurf dog run located off of the lobby. Residents can make sure that their pets can take care of their business whatever the weather or if it’s after dark.

Beyond making sure that residents and their pets are well supported, the Pet Club also puts on fun events, such as hosting the Pet Club Holiday Party. In December, Pet Club members, their pets, and interested San Francisco Towers residents gather to celebrate the season.

In December 2019, many dogs and one cat accompanied their owners to the event, where they played together in a safe environment where everyone could enjoy them. The event exemplified Jonas’ favorite part of the club “meeting all of the dogs and cats.” Both residents and their pets sampled special refreshments and residents were given a raffle ticket that they could place in one of three bags labelled dog, cat, or other. Everyone who attended the party received a prize and the bags helped the Pet Club distribute prizes that were appropriate for each resident’s pet. Resident’s without a pet could select ‘other’ for a non-pet related prize.

The San Francisco Towers Pet Club meets on the third Tuesday of every other month. San Francisco Towers residents, both those who have pets and those who love pets, are invited to attend.

Jonathan and Jackie have only lived together for a few months, but they both say it already feels like they’ve known each other forever. They found each other through Home Match, a program of Covia Community Services. Jonathan describes Home Match as “a ‘dating service’ that helps you find the perfect roommate.” For both Jonathan and Jackie, finding Home Match was a life saver.

Jonathan, a social worker with the city of San Francisco, couldn’t find affordable rentals in San Francisco and was commuting daily from Hercules. “I was searching for a place to live. I tried Craigslist, Apartments.com, asking through friends, with no success,” he says. “It was either Home Match or I had to leave San Francisco.”

Jackie, a retired hotel worker, was thinking of giving up her San Francisco apartment where she’d lived for years in order to save some money. “Then I thought I LOVE this neighborhood,” she says. “Why don’t I just see about a roommate.”

Home Match was the key for both Jonathan and Jackie. Home Match helps homeowners with extra rooms connect with home seekers who need an affordable place to live, creating a win-win situation. Home Match staff interview prospective homeowners and home seekers to check backgrounds and ensure compatibility, then connect people by researching personal preferences, house types, and interests. In some cases, accommodation can be provided in exchange for services, such as driving to the grocery store or lending a hand around the house. With this kind of arrangement, senior homeowners can often continue to be successful in their own home, while lodgers have access to affordable housing so they can remain in the area and continue their good work.

“With Home Match, along comes Jonathan, and he’s been a blessing,” says Jackie. “Living with him has opened the door back to life. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Jonathan and Jackie both appreciated the personal nature of the application and matching process. “I felt that I was being treated with dignity throughout the process,” Jonathan notes. “I always felt like I could trust the Home Match team.”

“I would absolutely recommend Home Match to anyone in my position. I love it because it brings people together, even those who you wouldn’t think would connect,” Jonathan says.

*This article was previously published in the Fall 2019 edition of Community Matters

On January 29th, Covia Community Services is celebrating creative aging with the Creative Aging Symposium. The symposium, which can be attended online or by conference call, celebrates how creativity shapes our sense of self and guides us to more purposeful living.

Both individual participants and senior communities nationwide are welcome to register for the 3rd Annual Creative Aging Symposium, occurring on January 29th from 9am to 12:15pm PST. The focus for this year’s symposium is on how creativity, a resource available to us all, builds resiliency. Through the wisdom of a talented group of presenters with a variety of creative backgrounds, the symposium will uncover the potential for imagination and provide tips for daily practices of self-expression.

Social Call Director Katie Wade, who created and spearheads the symposium, notes “Older adults want to explore new social connections, deepen their sense of self, try new things, be healthy, be of value to their community, and be seen as valuable. Creative aging concepts and programming provide a compelling solution to many of these priorities.”

Creativity is often associated with art, but one of the goals of the symposium is to demonstrate how creativity encompasses far more, such as trying a new approach when solving a problem to organizing space more efficiently. The Creative Aging Symposium seeks to help participants understand how they use creativity every day, even if they wouldn’t initially describe themselves as creative.

The concept of creative aging was originally heralded by Dr. Gene Cohen, who asserted the potential that creativity brings to aging. Inspired by Dr. Cohen’s work, Wade created the Creative Aging Symposium as a way to teach and inform more people about the positive effects of creativity and our immense capacity for creative growth, especially as we age.  

Wade particularly values the concept of ‘little c’ creativity as described by Dr. Gene Cohen: “Little ‘c’ creativity is represented by creative acts that can change the path ahead of us and bring something new into existence – perhaps how we do a daily task, approach a problem, or relate to our family.”

The 2020 symposium presenters will explore creativity in its numerous forms, including little ‘c’ creativity, and how it can help build resiliency as we age. These presenters include geriatrician, writer, and educator Louise Aronson; storyteller and co-founder of MiHistoria.net Albertina Zarazúa Padilla; dancer and choreographer Nancy Cranbourne; artist and activist Edythe Boone; and eco-friendly style icon Debra Rapoport. The wrap-up experience will be led by author and community organizer David “Lucky” Goff.

Speaking about this year’s symposium, Wade notes that she is “looking forward to hearing how attendees will be inspired to explore creativity a bit more in their daily lives or use a creative practice to get through difficult life circumstances.”

The Creative Aging Symposium is part of Covia Community Services’ dedication to creative aging as a way to reframe the narrative around aging through exploration, programming, and events. This takes a number of forms within Covia, from the Creative Aging Symposium to Ruth’s Table programming and Social Call’s integration of creative learning methods like The Hummingbird Project’s Joyful Moments cards.    

On February 4th, Leading Age California is hosting their Golden Gate Regional Event all about creative aging at Ruth’s Table. At Make Something Together: The Power of Creative Programming Ruth’s Table Director Jessica McCracken and Social Call Director Katie Wade will lead a conversation for professionals in the Aging Services field on creative aging and how it can be utilized to increase social connection and change the narrative around aging. More information about the event and registration can be accessed here.

If you are interested in learning more about creative aging and its benefits, please join us on January 29th for the Creative Aging Symposium and at Ruth’s Table on February 4th for the Leading Age California event.

Register here for the Creative Aging Symposium.

Register here for The Power of Creative Programming.

Our residents and staff give back to the greater community all year round, but in this season of sharing, this generosity takes on special meaning.

St. Paul’s Towers started off the season by surprising Oakland’s First Responders with baked goods and treats for Thanksgiving as well as personalized notes thanking them for their work. “It’s important to remember those who cannot spend the holidays with their loved ones which is why we always look forward to doing something special for our first responders,” says Life Enrichment Director Connie Yuen. “Residents really enjoy decorating cookies or writing notes to be given away and our staff enjoy personally thanking those who put their lives on the line for our community.”

Also in Oakland, Carolyn Bolton, Covia’s Director of Senior Resources for Alameda County, organized a fabulous Thanksgiving meal delivery for 200 older adults from Oakland to San Francisco! Staff members from  Covia Well Connected, Covia Home Match, and the Covia Foundation were there to help stuff all the goodie bags. They even got to say hello to one of our newest Home Match San Francisco participants, Nora, who volunteered for the event. Carolyn and her team, including Katharine Miller, Executive Director of the Covia Foundation, returned at Christmas to deliver 210 dinners to isolated seniors.

In Palo Alto, Webster House hosts an annual bake sale with the proceeds going to a community cause. This year, the funds went to Pets in Need, a local non-profit organization that runs two no-kill shelters in Santa Clara County. “In addition to the bakery items, the senior residents donated their hand-made jewelry, and one talented staff member baked fancy dog biscuits for the pets,” according to Pat Lau, Webster House Activity Coordinator. The bake sale raised $700 for Pets In Need.

For the past 15 years, Spring Lake Village staff members have taken on the role of Santa for children in Sonoma County through an annual toy drive. “It is something very special to our community,” says Liz Green, Director of Programs & Transportation. “This truly shows the character of our staff. Many buy not just one toy per child, but often times two or three. We used to do 25 tags, but have increased it to 35 in recent years because of the popularity. All 35 requests have been met by our staff!”

Our communities are always looking for new ways to give back. San Francisco Towers hosted its first ever blood drive just two days before Christmas. Coordinated by San Francisco Towers Life Enrichment Director, Megan Sullivan, the Vitalant Bloodmobile arrived at SFT at 10am on December 23rd. During the blood drive, which ran from 10am to 2pm, they collected 12 pints of blood with donations from staff and residents, including night shift nurse Jessa Chatto who came in just for the occasion!

“Having been a regular blood donor for 30 years, it was important to me to bring this opportunity to our residents,” says Sullivan. “Giving blood is one of the greatest gifts we can share with others, but it also gives us feelings of accomplishment, value and meaning. Our residents were grateful for the opportunity to be needed and have purpose. And they’re already signing up for the next one!”

All of us at Covia know that feeling of accomplishment, value, and meaning that comes from paying it forward and giving to others. We’re glad to know we have been able to make a difference in many lives, and we look forward to bringing more joy to the world around us in 2020!

The holidays are in full swing at Covia! Each community and program have their unique way of celebrating the season, from fun decorations and holiday parties to annual traditions and special events.

Webster House & Webster House Health Center

At Webster House Health Center, the lobby is always decked out in a particular theme for the holiday season. Last year, it was Grinchmas and this year the lobby is filled with Santa’s Workshop and gingerbread buildings. A large tree with swooping red ribbons and stocked with elegantly wrapped presents finishes off the festive display.

Elsewhere in the center, residents and staff have been practicing their Christmas carols, preparing for the holiday concerts that will take place on the different floors. Webster House chaplain, Lily Godsoe notes “this is a long standing tradition at the Health Center and the residents in particular are excited about it.”

Webster House Independent Living has been adding in new traditions along with established favorites. A Christmas tree and menorah dedication led by the chaplain was a new way to ring in the season, with residents gathering in the lobby to admire the elegant display that features an angel topper and poinsettia accents.

Over the December months, the tree has been looking over a growing pile of toys, collected for the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. December is a giving time at Webster House from the toy drive to the annual bake sale put on by Webster House, Webster House Health Center, and Lytton Gardens. Treats are baked by residents and staff as well as donated by local restaurants. Each year, the bake sale proceeds are donated to a local charity. This year’s charity is Pets in Need, a local rescue that also brings dogs to the Webster House Health Center and Lytton Garden communities to meet with the residents.

Resident Service Coordinators

Covia Resident Service Coordinators connect residents to vital services at affordable communities throughout the Bay Area and Southern California. Traditions at many of these communities center on potlucks and parties where residents can socialize and share in the festive season.  RSC Jennifer Wright at Redwood Shores will be celebrating with a Black and White themed party. She notes “we want to continue the tradition of doing a theme party as it gives residents a chance to dress up.”

Sunny View West in Cupertino will join in a potluck with the neighboring Sunny View Manor community where residents and their families can get together and celebrate the season. They’ll sing hymns together and participate in festive activities on top of sharing a delicious meal.

San Francisco Towers

San Francisco Towers’ lobby has become a central point of the holiday celebrations with the beloved tradition of the Christmas Circus Wagon and this year, the addition of the holiday house. 

The Christmas Circus Wagon was inspired by a resident’s ornament and the hard work of a couple of residents that brought the ornament to life but full size. The wagon hosts miniature amusement park rides, buildings, a moving train, and miniature people and trees enjoying the scene. It’s a welcome sight in the SFT lobby and if you’d like more information on its construction and inspiration, please read our blog post from last year dedicated to its history.

The holiday house is a new addition to the decorations this year. A homemade dollhouse, lovingly created for Olivia Guthrie by her father, the holiday house is decorated for the season. Its doors stand open so that visitors can look through each room of the house and even watch Santa and his reindeer up on the rooftop.

Restored and refinished, the furniture and a majority of the miniatures are from the period the dollhouse was created: 1938. The house resembles Colonials in the suburbs of Chicago, even including an Illinois flagstone around the front. It features festive decorations inside and out as the holiday house residents celebrate right alongside the residents of San Francisco Towers.

Olivia Guthrie hopes that the house will bring back “pleasant memories of holidays past.”

Support Services

The holidays are the sweetest time of year at Support Services. The annual cookie exchange was a hit with treats ranging from brownies and eggnog cookies to lemon cheesecake bars and chocolate crinkles. Participants got to take home a full Tupperware of the delicious sweets to share with family and friends.

The culmination of holiday celebrations at Support Services is the potluck, white elephant gift exchange, and ugly Christmas sweater contest. A full spread of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts are enjoyed by staff decked out in their most eccentric holiday attire. The celebration culminates with the white elephant gift exchange. This year saw incredible participation with 37 wrapped gifts that ranged from blankets and candles to an elegant bread slicer, board games, and chocolates. Everyone went home with a smile on their face and a new trinket or treat.

St. Paul’s Towers

At St. Paul’s Towers, a full array of holiday décor, programs, and services make the community feel particularly festive. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, visiting clergy from different denominations of Christianity perform a weekly Advent service full of hymns and celebrations of the Advent season.

Resident and staff led Christmas tree decorating gives everyone the chance to deck the halls, while later in the month, cookie decorating celebrates the sweeter side of the season.

During the eight nights of Chanukah, St. Paul’s Towers chaplain, Rabbi Meredith Cahn, and residents hold a nightly Chanukiah lighting, sing, share memories and blessings, and tell stories to celebrate the holiday. On one evening, they will share “latkes and other treats to remember the food.”

St. Paul’s Tower’s Program Coordinator, Connie Yuen, says, “We always have a great energy at SPT, but during the holidays, the feeling is extra special. From the way we greet one another to the exchange of hugs and high fives, there is a lot of love in the building.”

During this jolly time of year, full of festivities and traditions, all of us at Covia would like to wish you and yours a bright and merry holiday season.   

Leon Kennedy has lived and worked in Oakland, California for over 25 years and has been a resident of Oak Center Towers, a Covia Affordable Community, for seven. If you are out, about, and aware, you may just run into him on an Oakland street — where he is busy capturing on canvas the people and scenes of Bay Area life. Leon paints on “everything.” Some of his most impressive works have been captured on bed sheets he has found on the streets. Works on wood, tables and chairs, glass, and metal (even hubcaps) have been known to grace a thorough Kennedy collection. Many of the materials he works with come from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland. He creates his artworks with markers, paints, crayons, beads, glitter, cotton, yarn, and rope.

Leon is rated one of the top 100 self-taught artists in the country. His works are coveted by prominent Folk Art collectors everywhere. Serious collectors take huge store in the fact that Mr. Kennedy’s works appear in the Smithsonian Institute, which adds value to the ownership of a Kennedy original.

Community is a central part of Kennedy’s vision of life, as shown in his painting, “Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.” Kennedy explains that his art stems from his love for humanity, and he especially loves to paint the faces of the people that matter most to him, his close friends and family and neighbors.

“I love to see a picture of the beauty of old faces, young faces, all colors,” he says. “Everyone has their own beauty, everyone has character, and everyone goes through something. My work is based on community and family, and I love doing the faces and showing the heart and love. The heart of the community — you call it love.”

It is profoundly important for Leon Kennedy that his art serves the community. In a recent application Kennedy made for a public mural, a panelist said, “Mr. Kennedy actively builds community through his art.” His proposal was approved and the mural will be completed in 2020 at the African American Museum and Library.

“The main idea of my art is concern for people, encouraging someone else,” he said. “I love when someone loves the work, and feels touched. We’re here to serve and love and encourage one another. When I get a vision, I hope it helps someone.”

He has long had a vision as an artist. “As a child I knew that art was my vocation,” Kennedy said. Born in 1945 in Houston, Texas, he moved to the Bay Area in 1965. He lived in San Francisco’s Mission District in the 1970s and painted his first public mural in Hunter’s Point during that time. In Oakland, Kennedy began by painting on cloth, but he soon ran out of canvas, so he started painting on bed sheets and other found materials.

It seems fitting that he often finds his “canvases” on the street. “My art studio is the street,” Kennedy explained. “I paint on bed sheets that I hang on wooden fences and building walls.”

Kennedy paints nearly every day, often working on a bed sheet or a huge piece of cloth spread out on the floor of his studio apartment. He paints while kneeling, as if immersed in prayer. He explains that artistic visions constantly come to him. Living at Oak Center Towers provides him with a steady home base as well as a community from which to draw inspiration. “I love the variety of people here, I love my view of downtown,” he said. “The staff here is so supportive; anything that needs fixed is taken care of right away. I’m also inspired by the other artists here. I’d love to bring them all together so the world can see our creativity.”

Leon Kennedy will have a public mural called Oakland Faces on display at the Oakland Public Library in January. His work will be on exhibition at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in February as a part of the Black History Month celebration.

*This article was previously published in the Fall 2019 edition of Community Matters with quotes adapted from a Street Spirit article from April 2014.

On Tuesday, December 3rd, Covia Resident Service Coordinators Sara Choi and Chan Park were honored by the County of Los Angeles for their work in promoting and supporting falls prevention in Los Angeles County.

Choi, a Lead Resident Service Coordinator and Wellness Coordinator at Vista Towers in Los Angeles, and Park, a Resident Service Coordinator at Long Beach Lutheran Tower, were nominated by the Los Angeles Falls Prevention Coalition, an organization dedicated to reducing fall risk for older adults through education, advocacy, planning, and community action across Los Angeles County.

This year, Choi translated fall prevention training materials into Korean as well as developing informational flyers. And Park completed his training to become a Matter of Balance Facilitator, allowing him to teach the program to Korean-speaking residents at Pilgrim Towers in Los Angeles.

Covia’s Resident Service Coordinators encourage one another to get more involved in fall prevention programs as part of their role in ensuring residents remain independent and safe in their homes as long as possible. Katherine Smith, Senior Director of Social Services, first introduced Choi to the Coalition by inviting her to attend a meeting, and she’s been involved ever since. And in her turn, Choi invited Park to be trained as a Matter of Balance Facilitator.

“Falls are not part of the aging process,” says Park. Instead, people “need to be educated, take preventive measures and initiate intervention actions!” The Matter of Balance class helps seniors prevent falls before they happen, promoting a better quality of life. Through Choi and Park, Korean-speaking seniors can now participate in the program in their first language.

This recognition from Los Angeles is simply motivation to keep going, Choi and Park explain. “Being recognized was important to me because it opened another door for me as a Coalition member and as an RSC to rethink more ways to prevent falls,” says Choi. Park says, “I look forward to teaching Matter of Balance to many more Korean speaking residents next year!”