By Sharon Brock
After a year of planning, Tuesday marked the kick off of a pilot community access program at UCSF Mission Bay's Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center.
The program offers free exercise classes and nutritious food for both children and seniors who live in underserved communities near the UCSF Mission Bay campus, including Bayview-Hunter's Point, Visitacion Valley, South of Market and the Mission District.
Sixty-five seniors and 62 elementary and middle school-aged children have signed up for the 14-week pilot program. To elicit participants, the University-Community Partnerships Program formed partnerships with six senior organizations and five youth organizations.
For seniors, specially tailored classes in water aerobics, yoga, tai chi and line dancing are offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, along with a nutritious lunch. The program also offers seniors, many of whom speak English as a second language, opportunities to make friends, feel good about themselves and have completely new experiences.
"Yesterday was my first time in a swimming pool and today was the first time I've tried yoga," says 66-year-old Sylvia Lopez. "Everybody here treats us with so much respect and love. I feel like we are being pampered in a fancy place -- like we are movie stars."
For children, this project enhances current after-school programs by offering options such as lively hip-hop and martial arts classes, as well as healthy snacks, on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
"It was wonderful to see these children dancing hip-hop and having so much fun," says Amie Vogt, University-Community Partnerships Program lead coordinator for the project. "It's important for these kids to be out of their home environments and connect with other kids who might be having similar life challenges. At the end of the day, it seemed like their worlds got bigger."
To cover transportation issues, local senior organization Centro Latino de San Francisco provides vans that shuttle participants to and from Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center. To provide healthy snacks and lunches, ARAMARK Harrison Lodging, management for the Mission Bay Conference Center, subsidized food for the program, so that participants could enjoy nutritious meals free of charge.
San Francisco resident Gerarda Daming from SOMA Filipino Center learns Tai Chi.
"ARAMARK has a long history of community service and we're happy to do it. I think it's a win-win situation," says Lisa Wilson, general manager of the Mission Bay Conference Center. "I have a lot of experience working with seniors and I just love the work. You learn so much from listening to their stories."
One of the partners in the program is Suya Colorado-Caldwell, communications manager for UCSF Fitness & Recreation Programs. She develops fitness and recreation programs at both the Mission Bay and Parnassus campuses, and has been working to incorporate a community outreach program at Mission Bay since the Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center opened its doors in October 2005.
"It's not just a fitness club; it's a community center so this program fits in with our mission to reach out to the community," says Colorado-Caldwell. "We are so excited for this program. The reactions of the participants so far have been just delightful."
University-Community Partnerships Program