The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Covia’s Resident Service Coordinators (RSCs) help residents at affordable communities throughout California connect to vital services – work that is more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis.

“RSCs have shown up to work each day from the start of this pandemic and have adapted to providing services to our most vulnerable population while maintaining strict physical distancing,” says Katherine Smith, Senior Director of Social Services. 

As programs and normal services have stalled, the continued work of RSCs ensure that older adults throughout the state can continue to receive the help and care that they need. Under normal circumstances, RSCs coordinate a wide variety of services, ranging from offering social and cultural programs within their communities to helping residents access benefit programs and medical care. During the shelter in place order, RSCs have continued connecting residents to essential services, which now includes getting access to food deliveries, masks, and hand sanitizer.

At Redwood Shores in Vallejo, RSC Jennifer Wright is working with Panera Bread to coordinate donations of unsold fresh food. “I am happy to report that with each donation we have been able to feed all of the residents,” Wright says.  

Wright also worked with the city to secure donations of laundry soap, hand soap, and canned goods. “I also got a donation of 5.5 gallon liquid hand sanitizer when hand sanitizer was sparse,” she says. “But I can’t take the credit for it all as my site has really come together as a community. We have residents who go to church together, that cook up to 20 hot meals each Saturday giving it to residents. Another resident made and donated 100 cloth masks for staff and residents!”

Esther Koc, RSC for Covia’s Presidio Gate Apartment in San Francisco, has solicited donations for face coverings for staff as well as residents. “All essential, onsite staff have been supplied with reusable face coverings since April.  All PGA residents were also supplied as of early May.” Esther is now working on securing reusable face coverings for residents at two other communities. “We cannot make people wear them but providing them and exhausting all our options allows us to say we did all we could.” 

There’s a lot of education that goes along with keeping people safe and healthy. “I find there continues to be confusion with residents about wearing masks when exiting their units,” says Koc. “Many accuse onsite staff of being infected due to us wearing them. But I continue to educate that protecting self also protects others.  We all need to do our part to keep our communities safe and well.”

RSCs provide residents with easy ways to prioritize their overall wellness as they shelter in place.  “Residents are following the shelter-in-place guidelines well, but as the time passes by, they were noticeably becoming weaker due to lack of exercise,” says Sara Choi, RSC at Vista Towers in Los Angeles.  “We have been following up with the residents to encourage them to at least walk in the hallway since Vista Tower has no garden or open space for residents to walk safely.  We provided them resources of YouTube senior exercise links and encouraged them to do some exercises using YouTube.  We also printed out simple exercises for those who do not have a smart phone or any kind of device.”

Wellness includes staying socially connected, which is an important part of the RSCs’ role as people are unable to gather in groups. Smith notes that ending social isolation is the #1 goal of resident service coordinators, and staying physically distant is hard for the RSCs as well as the residents. “RSCs have gotten creative though. Every resident at every site is reached out to once a week. We miss our residents but do what we must to protect them.”

Choi says, “We have been periodically contacting residents via phone to check in on them to make sure they have everything they need and socialize with them so that they won’t feel lonely and isolated. Since they know us already and have a trusted relationship built up, they were feeling more comfortable talking to us.”  

“During the shelter in place, I have gotten the chance to get closer to my residents by calling them weekly,” says Wright. “Redwood Shores has really shown me that even while social distancing, we can still come together as a community, just six feet apart.”

As we shelter in place, many people are taking up new creative projects, everything from knitting to baking or even learning a new musical instrument. Ruth’s Table is celebrating the power of creativity to lift our spirits and bring us together with the Enduring Inspiration: Creativity at Home initiative.

Ruth’s Table, part of Covia’s Community Services, is an arts nonprofit committed to increasing access to creative opportunities for older adults and adults with disabilities located at Bethany Center Senior Housing, a Covia Affordable Community. Through the Enduring Inspiration initiative Ruth’s Table is encouraging individuals sheltering in place to express themselves through creative projects with the help of creative care kits, support from teaching artists, and virtual classes. The culmination of the project is the Enduring Inspiration exhibition, a gallery show that will feature submitted art pieces created during this time.

Ruth’s Table Director Jessica McCracken notes, “Knowing that people were going to have to stay at home for a long duration of time, our first thought was around the risks associated with social isolation. Ruth’s Table programming has proven that the arts are an incredible tool for bringing people together. Enduring Inspiration was designed to bring a sense of hope and offer a way to process the magnitude of this experience.”

One way that this has manifested is with creative care kits, which include art-making activities (paired with supplies) that participants can use at home. Ruth’s Table has partnered with Covia Creative Spark to create Creative Spark worksheets, which are fun prompts intended to spark inspiration. Worksheets vary greatly, from turning a provided squiggle into a drawing to curating a personal art collection. An example of the worksheets can be found here.

Beyond the Creative Spark worksheet kits, Ruth’s Table has also partnered with Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSW), which empowers underprivileged youth through sewing and quilting, to create an intergenerational quilt. Ruth’s Table and SJSA have created quilt making kits that guide recipients through creating a quilt block that will be incorporated into a full quilt. This quilt will be on display as part of the Enduring Inspiration exhibit. If you are interested in creating a quilt block as part of the project, please reach out to contact@ruthstable.org.

Ruth’s Table is also supporting community creativity through individual or group phone calls as well as virtual classes. Group or individual support calls allow teaching artists to provide assistance and encouragement to those working on the creative care kits and Creative Spark worksheets. Virtual classes are also available for senior communities as a way to keep connected and engaged while we stay at home.

Set to take place later this year, the Enduring Inspiration exhibit is an invitation to us all to explore creative projects at home and share our work with others. Ruth’s Table is encouraging everyone to submit any creative projects of choice, from traditional art pieces like paintings and sculpture to other creative endeavors like recipes, musical pieces, and more.

Everyone and anyone is invited to submit their creative project for consideration and submissions are open now through June 1st. The submission process is easy and consists of a short write-up about the project, a photo of the project if applicable, and a short, 2 to 3 sentence bio. The full submission guidelines are available on Ruth’s Table’s website. To submit, please reach out to Ruth’s Table at contact@ruthstable.org or 415.505.3269. Participants will be notified about inclusion in the exhibit by July 1st.

If you are working on a creative project during this time, also consider sharing photos and your process on social media using the hashtag #RTmakes. We’re excited to see what you create and how you are utilizing creativity to stay connected.

Social distancing may mean that we can’t be physically close but there are still plenty of ways to connect with each other and the outside world while staying safe at home. Technology can keep us connected to our family and current events but there are also ways to create new social connections during this time. Programs like Social Call, Well Connected, and Ruth’s Table provide opportunities to join insightful discussions, connect one on one, and experience art all while sheltering in place.

 

Connect One on One

Social Call pairs older adult participants with volunteers for one on one conversations. Matches meet for 30 minutes every week over the phone. It’s a great opportunity to meet someone new and it’s “a tangible way to alleviate pain in our world,” says Social Call Director Katie Wade.

Matches connect over their shared interests or backgrounds and often teach each other new things. “I’ve learned about delighting in the present,” says one Social Call volunteer, while another notes that “I always learn beneficial things from my match – especially relating to growing flowers.”

Social Call is actively seeking volunteers and participants and it’s easy to get started. Individuals interested in volunteering can get started on VolunteerMatch and older adults looking to participate can get in touch by calling (877) 797-7299 or emailing coviaconnections@covia.org.

 

Join a New Community

Looking for an inclusive community where you can participate in caring conversations, learn new things, and even travel to different countries without leaving your home? Well Connected offers easily accessible sessions over the phone that range from writing groups and guided meditation to armchair travel and museums at home. Amber Carroll, Well Connected Director, notes “COVID-19 or not, these programs provide a unique opportunity to connect with others from the comfort of home.”

Well Connected sessions are free and available in both English and Spanish. Check out what sessions are currently being offered in the Well Connected and Well Connected Español catalogs. Enrolling is as easy as calling (877) 797-7299.

 

Send a Card

In addition to staying connected over the phone or online, Social Call and Well Connected are currently creating snail mail connections as well. Both programs are looking for volunteers who are willing to send cards to brighten participants’ mailboxes. It’s as easy as having a handful of postcards and a pen. Volunteers have been sharing everything from a quick note of encouragement to sketches of what they have been doing while social distancing.

Interested in sending a card? Check out VolunteerMatch to get started.

 

Visit a Museum Virtually

Ruth’s Table is an art space and gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco that hosts exhibits and art programming. Though in-person art programming and classes are currently closed to keep the community safe, Ruth’s Table is offering a virtual tour of their current exhibition Echoes of the New Vision through Well Connected on March 25th from 11am to 12pm PST.

Curator Hanna Regev will provide an in-depth tour of the exhibit and the facilitator will include verbal descriptions for those with low vision. Explore how Bauhaus ideas have impacted photography and photo-based art from the comfort of your home over the phone or through your computer. To learn more and register, email contact@ruthstable.org

 

Staying Connected

During this time, it is important to remember all of the ways that we are connected even when we are physically distant. Reaching out to someone that you care about or creating a new connection can be a great way to remind oneself that though we’re all staying in our personal spaces, we’re still participating in the same shared world.

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”

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.

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.   

The Thanksgiving season at Covia is a time for great food, from the Support Services Nuthin’ But Sides potluck to the annual Thanksgiving meals put on by communities and Senior Resources. Two of these Thanksgiving meals, the Senior Resources San Francisco Thanksgiving dinner and the Annual Oak Center Towers’ Thanksgiving Luncheon, give a great peek into what it’s like to celebrate the holiday season at Covia.

SF Senior Resources:

On November 20th, Senior Resources San Francisco hosted its fifth annual Thanksgiving dinner – part of its monthly Senior Lunch program, usually held on the fourth Wednesday of the month in the Parish Hall of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. With a jazz trio playing in the background, nearly 75 seniors gathered at long tables for a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Sandra, who is a regular at the senior lunch, says the service she receives is what makes this meal special. “All those other places you have to stand in line, out in the cold,” she says. After having wrist surgery, she finds carrying trays difficult. “Here, you’re indoors, you’re sitting at a table like we are, there’s nice music playing in the background, and you just sit and they serve you, instead of you carrying a big heavy tray.”

Vivian, who has been attending for the past three years, had a different experience: “At first I had trouble because I’m used to potlucks with my friends, so I wanted to help. I realized I’m supposed to sit down, so that was the hardest part.”

Amy Brokering, Director of Senior Resources in San Francisco, says that the service was a deliberate choice when the program was first started six years ago to make it feel more special for those who gather. Since its inception, the lunch has grown from fewer than 20 seniors to, at its largest, around 80 participants – with volunteers, close to 100 people. “It’s a community,” she says. “They support each other.”

Volunteer Pam agrees. As she serves in her fourth Thanksgiving for the program, she says, “The memories of all the differences we were able to produce is really beautiful. We have a core group of about five or six of us and we work really well together. We have a lot of joy in being here for these people and knowing it’s a community. It just makes us feel good.”

Three additional volunteers from Lindquist CPA joined the team to help serve the Thanksgiving meal. A vendor partner with Covia, Lindquist has been helping with the Thanksgiving senior lunch for the past three years. As a surprise at the end of the meal, the team from Lindquist presented Amy Brokering with a check for the Covia Foundation for $2,000 – the largest gift this program has received.

Oak Center Towers:

Also on November 20th, Oak Center Towers, a Covia Affordable community, hosted its 18th Annual Thanksgiving Lunch. Held in the Oak Center Towers multipurpose room, the lunch invites residents to enjoy a special holiday meal in their community. 

“It’s a much loved and appreciated, long-standing tradition that residents seem to really look forward to,” says Aliona Gibson, who joined Covia this year as Activities Coordinator at Oak Center Towers. “There was buzz for weeks before the date.”

Over 100 Oak Center Towers residents and guests took part in the annual lunch, arriving early to socialize with their family and friends before the food was served. The room was a pleasant hubbub of conversation as the group shared time together along with the Thanksgiving meal.

The multipurpose room at Oak Center Towers was decorated for the occasion with fall colors, flowers, and even featured a display with the community’s initials spelled out using water bottles. A tree with residents’ thankful wishes fashioned out of paper leaves adorned one wall, a happy reminder of the nature of the season.

Oak Center Towers’ staff and volunteers from Covia Support Services worked together to plate and serve the meal, which included holiday staples like turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese and green beans as well as fried rice and steamed vegetables. For dessert, there was a choice of apple pie or ambrosia salad and each resident was able to toast the season with their own glass of sparkling cider.

“It was a pleasure and fun to work alongside the Covia family to create such a wonderful experience. I felt the love and genuine care, concern and effort put forth towards making the event memorable,” Gibson noted. “I could not have asked for a better inaugural Thanksgiving at OCT.”