Video by Don Soffer featuring Alexandra Newlon
Since its opening in August of 2013, Macklind International Senior Center has hosted recurring Albanian, Afghan, Bosnian, Iraqi, Nepali, Somali, and Vietnamese-speaking senior groups. A group day at the Senior Center begins early. Driver Kumar Tirwa and Senior Center Coordinator Rochelle Droege meet at 8am to review the pick-up route for the day. While Kumar traverses the city in our 15-seat bus, stopping at each group member’s home and helping those with limited mobility on to the bus, Rochelle prepares coffee and hot water for tea. The cooks are the next to arrive. Bilingual International strives to match culturally appropriate cooks and authentic cuisine with the groups that attend the Senior Center. Our cooks – who are all Servsafe certified – scrub up and head in to our full kitchen to prepare the day’s meal.
When the seniors arrive, they make their way in to the common area, where they can grab refreshments, play games (dominoes, cards, bingo, etc.), catch up with their friends and fellow community members, or meet with the language-specific Community Access Worker on staff for that day. The Community Access Worker is able to provide same-language assistance with benefits, help sight translate letters from insurance companies and governmental agencies, coordinate access to resources, and address any other issues that may be impacting the lives of the group members. The Community Access Worker also helps by providing health and dietary education.
A home-cooked, nutritious lunch is served by that day’s cook from steam heated warming trays. After lunch, the seniors have more time for socialization and assistance. The recent additions of a stand-up piano and multilingual library are also a draw. As Kumar helps the day’s attendees back on to the bus, the cooks begin cleaning the kitchen and dining area for the next day’s group.
Macklind International needs your support! Although our Senior Center operations would be impossible without the assistance of the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging (SLAAA), the seniors are still asked to contribute a modest donation to help cover the remainder of the costs for food, transportation, and staffing. We accept outside donations of funds that can be earmarked to keep the Senior Center running. If you are in support of our work to establish and maintain the state’s first multicultural senior center, please consider making a small donation by clicking here.