watsonville senior center
A City of Watsonville worker uses a leaf blower to tidy up the Watsonville Senior Center on East Fifth Street. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—Large changes are unfolding at the Watsonville Senior Center at East Fifth Street after the City of Watsonville took over operations on Nov. 1.

The City will pump $176,000 from its 2019-20 general fund into the Senior Center, and also hire an Older Adult Services Supervisor that will be in charge of sustaining and expanding the services already being provided.

“We’re still searching for a supervisor for the center, but we’ve already begun some exciting changes,” said Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib. “We celebrated with a soft opening [Nov. 4] and a more formal opening is being planned. We’ve been clearing some old things out and working on making this a better, safer place.”

New tables and chairs in addition to new games such as playing cards, puzzles, arts and crafts, and dominoes are on the slate.

Olga Fuentes, who formed the bilingual group, Healing With My Butterflies, at the center about two years ago, said she welcomed many of the changes.

“There were things that needed to be done differently,” she said. “They gave us a month and it seemed so sudden. We asked for a year but they gave us a month…We are all grateful. They used to have a 50 cents charge for coffee and now it has changed to donation only—that’s huge for some of our seniors. I was always advocating for free coffee. We need to cater to our seniors. We are all grateful.”

The City Council in October approved an Adult Services and Senior Center Plan that brought operations of the Senior Center under the City’s umbrella. Local nonprofit Association of Watsonville Area Seniors (AWAS) supervised the Senior Center for the last 39 years, renting out the City-owned building for $1 per year.

Fuentes said one big changed was losing Valerie Rivera who served as the center director for 27 years. 

“That was sad news,” Fuentes said. “A lot of people were shaken up by that.”

City staff assured the public that all services provided by numerous nonprofits at the Senior Center would still be available under new management. 

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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