The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Between September 15th and October 15th, America celebrates Hispanic heritage and all that those with Hispanic roots have contributed to our nation. Mexico’s Independence Day, paired with the anniversary of independence for multiple Latin American countries on September 15th, kicks off this month long celebration. (Mexican Independence is often mistakenly believed to be Cinco de Mayo, and not the actual date: September 16th.)

Hispanic Heritage Month is especially important as an opportunity to recognize Hispanic older adults, who currently constitute 8 percent of the older population nationwide, one-quarter of them living in California.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Covia is celebrating Well Connected Español, our community service program that supports Spanish speaking older adults. Well Connected offers phone-based and online activities for older adults anywhere in the US and with Well Connected Español, these offerings also promote Hispanic heritage and arts. Sessions like Lotería, Encuentrame en la Cocina (Find Me in the Kitchen), and Poesía de Otros Tiempos (Poetry from Other Times) allow participants to partake in games and conversations tied to their Latinx roots.

Poesía de Otros Tiempos celebrates Spanish poetry through the work of Gil Saenz while inviting participants to bring their own poems to share. As the session’s description highlights, the group is centered on poetry’s ability to heal the body and soul while also being challenging and inspiring. By choosing a Hispanic poet, the session discusses poetry that will distinctly connect to its participants’ experience.

Lotería, on the other hand, translates a popular Mexican game to a form that can connect people over the phone. Lotería, also called Mexican bingo, is similar to American Bingo except that participants mark off images on a grid instead of numbers. Like with bingo, images are called once and participants can win depending on completing a predetermined pattern on their board. An exciting aspect of Lotería is that it’s a fun game that is fully functional over the phone, making it a perfect session for Well Connected Español. Join Lotería during their next session on September 25th at 4:00pm PDT by calling (877) 400-5867 and requesting your free Lotería card.

Beyond these sessions that specifically address Hispanic heritage, the entire Well Connected Español catalog provides opportunities to connect with older adults that speak Spanish and every session is tailored to address Hispanic culture and roots.

This month provides the opportunity to not only celebrate Hispanic culture but also to reflect on its impact on our country, community, and personal lives. Michael Cueva, Well Connected Español Administrative Coordinator, notes, “As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month, I am thankful to my community for making me who I am. I thank my parents who struggled very hard, leaving their homeland to come to the U.S., where they worked very hard to give my sisters and me the life and opportunities we have today. I am proud of being Latino and of having the opportunity to give back to my community.”

Over the next 30 days, consider how you can celebrate Hispanic culture and its positive impact on all of our lives and follow along on the Well Connected Español and Covia Facebook pages for further celebrations.

A poet since she was a young child, San Francisco Towers resident Sally Love Saunders’ eyes light up when she talks about helping others get in touch with their creativity. “I’m doing it for me because I enjoy it,” she says. Sally has been a poet, poet-in-residence and teacher of poetry in a wide range of situations — with kids in schools, in senior centers, and at migrant labor camps. She was instrumental in developing poetry therapy and worked in Philadelphia mental hospitals as a Certified Poetry Therapist for many years.

Sally has six published books of poetry and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Times International, The London Times, The Denver Post, and among over 300 other anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Her lesson plan for teaching poetry writing was published in The Christian Science Monitor.

She has shared poetry all her life. From her young days growing up on a farm in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to her college years on the East Coast, she would muse to herself, “What can I pass on to others?” The answer was poetry. She received many grants to take poetry into underserved areas such as Appalachia and inner-city libraries in Philadelphia, to mention a few.

Her family, like many, is far flung and she was looking for connection with others when she discovered Covia’s Well Connected program. She participates in Well Connected programs, has taught poetry to some Well Connected presenters, and has been a generous supporter of Well Connected creativity programming with a gift to the Covia Foundation.

She has also shared her poetry presentations throughout other Covia communities — visiting Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa, Webster House in Palo Alto, St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, and Presidio Gate Apartments in San Francisco. She looks forward to presenting again at San Francisco Towers this Fall and working with Bethany Center residents in San Francisco soon. She does this all as a volunteer.

It is serendipitous that she relocated to the West Coast. After college, as she was traveling to Japan to study haiku, she had a layover in San Francisco. “As soon as I stepped out of the plane and enjoyed the coastal air, I knew I wanted to live here,” she says.

For many years, she lived a few blocks from San Francisco Towers and saw it under construction as it rose to its current place overlooking the City skyline. Over the years, she got to know people and staff from the Towers from poetry workshops. Now, as a resident, “I am a very happy camper.”

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