The Best Way to Help Impoverished Seniors

September 22, 2017 - Paul Downey

Do you enjoy starting your day with a coffee from your favorite java place? Could you forgo one cup a week to help your elderly, poverty-stricken San Diego neighbors who can’t afford that luxury?

I’d like to ask you to consider becoming a monthly donor. For as little as $2.50 a week, or $10 a month, you can be part of the caring community of people who are keeping our vulnerable, at-risk seniors healthy and independent.

How Your Monthly Gift Helps

Hunger is an everyday problem, and a hot meal is the number one reason low-income seniors seek help. Here are the lifesaving differences you can make in just one year:

  • $10/month feeds a senior for 3 weeks.
  • $25/month covers 8 nursing visits for seniors in need.
  • $50/month provides 25 social work visits for seniors.
  • $100/month feeds a senior for 8 months.
  • $250/month provides a month of rent and case management services for three seniors in our Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Seniors.

Why a Monthly Donation?

Monthly gifts provide consistent, reliable support, which allows us to spend less time fundraising and more time serving seniors. It’s a convenient and efficient way for you to support the seniors and programs of Serving Seniors: you can make payments automatically by credit or debit card, change the amount or payment method of your monthly donation, or cancel at any time.

It’s easy to give and every contribution, however large or small, helps someone in need. Just use our secure form to become a monthly donor and you’ll ensure we have the resources to provide low-income seniors with the help they need and the support network they deserve, all year long.

I hope I can count on you. Thank you for being a friend to San Diego seniors in need.

With gratitude,

Paul Downey
President and CEO, Serving Seniors

An Open Letter to All Friends of Serving Seniors

September 15, 2017 - Paul Downey

Dear Friend of Serving Seniors,

As we enter the final months of 2017, I want to personally thank you and share how important your support has been to Serving Seniors. It has truly made a difference in serving the critical, and increasing, needs of vulnerable seniors in San Diego who live at or below the poverty line. We simply could not provide our services without your help.

Because of your generous support, nearly 5,000 seniors received essential services over the past year.

Food is Medicine

Your support is providing nutritious meals to seniors all over San Diego County, free of charge, 365 days a year, at nine congregate dining sites and through our Home Delivered Meals program.

Because of you, we were able to provide nearly 600,000 meals last year, including more than 250,000 meals to homebound seniors who rely on this program to continue living independently.

Affordable Senior Housing

Because of supporters like you, we’re able to provide 350 units of affordable senior housing, filling a crucial need for seniors who live on fixed incomes.

We also conduct a 90-day transitional housing program to help homeless seniors move off the streets and into permanent affordable housing. The program has an unprecedented 92% success rate.

One of our most important initiatives is to further address the homeless senior epidemic in San Diego County by building more affordable housing, in age-friendly communities, with included support services.

In an ambitious effort with our development partner, we have six housing complexes – totaling more than 800 units – in our potential pipeline. By spring of 2018, two of the new complexes are expected to be under construction.

Lifelong Learning: Keeping Minds Sharp

Your volunteered time and donated dollars help maintain our Lifelong Learning Program, which provides seniors with a wide variety of free fitness, educational and enrichment activities, including: a walking and singing group; technology, travel and art classes; knitting and gardening groups; a writing club; holiday celebrations from a variety of cultures; birthday celebrations, social events and much more!

Lifelong learning is essential for seniors because it keeps minds sharp, improves memory, increases self-confidence and helps them meet others who share their interests. More than 750 classes were held last year, thanks to your support.

Advocacy and Supportive Services

Important supportive services are also facilitated by your support. A dedicated team of case managers helps seniors understand and access federal and state benefits and transportation, schedule appointments and navigate an array of other challenging aging issues.

Most importantly, our team is able to serve as a reliable support network for seniors who need us.

Health Care and Health Education

Our health services team is able to promote healthy aging and advocate for our clients’ healthcare needs because of your support. They also provide chronic disease management, nutrition education and health screenings.

More than 2,000 seniors received health services last year, free of charge, thanks to you.

Come Visit Us

I’d like to offer you a tour of our facilities so we can show you the inspiring outcomes that your support has facilitated. To arrange a tour please contact Lori Gremel, Chief Development and External Affairs Officer, at 619-487-0608 or

We’re deeply grateful to you for supporting our life-changing mission of helping vulnerable seniors live healthy, fulfilling lives. On behalf of the seniors who directly benefit from your generosity every day, thank you!

With gratitude,

Paul Downey
President and CEO, Serving Seniors

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Lisa Vito: An Inspiration

September 11, 2017 - Paul Downey

Lisa Vito is undeniably inspiring: at 90 years old, she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in German Studies at San Diego State University. Quick to smile and full of life, she has the aura of someone much younger.

Lifelong Learner

At 65 years old Lisa began taking classes for fun, not worrying about obtaining credits, calling her endeavor “a hobby to satisfy my inquiring brain.” Because SDSU offered affordable classes to senior citizens Lisa could take lots of courses, learning about whatever sounded interesting to her that semester, including geology, astronomy, Latin, human biology and Chinese.

After she’d been taking classes for a while, a policy change required students to declare a major before being allowed to enroll in classes. Having no intention of earning a degree, but needing to declare a course of study, Lisa chose German Studies. Lisa casually explains German Studies as, “Recent history, geography, culture, that sort of thing.”

College Graduate

For 23 years, Lisa took classes and enjoyed them immensely – there were no computers, no homework, just a professor and the books she enjoyed so much. Then, at 88 years old, Lisa started to slow down a bit and told her counselor she didn’t want to enroll in any more classes. Her counselor explained that she was only a few courses from earning a degree, and enthusiastically encouraged Lisa to see it through.

Not a person who gives up on things, Lisa completed some basic requirements to obtain a GED in order to be eligible for a bachelor’s degree, then took the final upper level German classes required for her major. In December of 2014, at 90 years old, Lisa received her official diploma and was “finally finished with school.”

Traveling Woman

Originally from “the German part of Switzerland,” Lisa leads an active, exciting life that has taken her all over the world and describes herself as having “gypsy blood.” She speaks four languages (English, Italian, French and German) and has used them all throughout her travels. Notable chapters of her life include apprenticing for a dressmaker in Switzerland and working as a nanny to the child of a bullfighter and well known singer in Madrid.

At 28, Lisa married an Italian man and they moved to England, where they stayed for five years and had their first two children before sailing to America. In 1954 the family settled in Boston, where they stayed for a while, and where they added two more children to the family. Eventually, Lisa’s eagerness to explore “America the Beautiful,” as she calls it, became too strong to deny. The family moved to St. Louis, where Lisa found work at the revolving Top of the Riverfront Restaurant, which operated atop Stouffer’s Riverfront Inn (later called the Millennium Hotel St. Louis), next door to the Gateway Arch.

Stouffer’s Riverfront Inn, circa 1968.

The family later moved to Denver, finally settling in San Diego where they lived in a rented duplex on 30th Street until they were able to purchase their house in the Oak Park neighborhood in the late 1980s (where Lisa and one of her sons still live). Lisa found work as a cashier at PSA Airlines, allowing her to see the world at a discounted price.

Family Matters

Without much family around, Lisa is grateful for the friends and companionship she finds at Serving Seniors. Her husband passed away some years back and two of her four children live in Europe: one in Germany and one in Switzerland. Sadly, Lisa lost one of her daughters to breast cancer a few years ago, but one of her sons recently retired and now lives with her in Oak Park – she says the arrangement works well for them because he “lets her do what she wants.”

Still Going Strong

These days, this great-grandmother of twelve is part of a folk dancing group that performs at Balboa Park, enjoys line dancing classes at Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, and relaxes with Tai Chi at the La Mesa Senior Center. Having recently returned from a trip to Chile and Patagonia and participated in our annual talent competition, Lisa fills her days with activities and friends, many of whom she’s met at Serving Seniors.

Lisa talks about Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center with a smile and remarks on what a wonderful place it is. She appreciates its attractiveness and cleanliness and expresses gratitude for this hub of bustling activity that reinvents the concept of a senior activity center. For our part, we’re inspired to have such a vivacious lady among us.

Read U-T San Diego’s feature on Lisa (PDF)

Lisa plays a Beethoven piece at Senior Idol, our annual talent competition.

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