Intercultural Senior Center
Threads of Life Program Empowers Participants
BY SHERRY THOMPSON
Participants in the Threads of Life program at the Intercultural Senior Center in South Omaha are learning more than just sewing skills.
“The opportunity to be part of this program has given participants a sense of confidence and has empowered them to feel that they can still contribute to their families and their community,” says Carolina Padilla, director.
On a recent afternoon, a group of women worked on aprons under the guidance of volunteer instructor Rita Hazel, who is quick to praise the women in her class.
“They have so many good ideas,” she says. “A lot of times, people think the elderly don’t really do much, but they have talent and they all work so well together.” Other projects have included frog doorstops, hot pads, handbags, scarves and coasters.
Some of the women in the program are learning to sew for the first time, while others are relearning a skill they used in the past.
“I sewed a lot when I was young and the kids were at home,” Nellie says. She is now relearning tasks that were once second nature, such as putting in zippers. Nellie enjoys the socialization with the other women and working together on projects.
“I like the fellowship,” says Francisca, who sewed for her family of seven children and still sews for her grandkids. “We learn from each other and help each other.”
The Intercultural Senior Center was founded in 2009 to provide services to low-income elderly immigrants. About 70 percent of the participants are Latino, 28 percent are refugees and the remaining 2 percent are white.
“While they may not speak the same language, they exercise together, they eat together and they do the sewing class together,” Padilla says of the diverse population at the center. “The Hispanic and refugee seniors have established special bonds through a creative and cooperative form of communication.”
Participants are enthusiastic about the Threads of Life program, Padilla says. “These intergenerational projects allow the participants to share their work with their daughters and granddaughters, making it special, personal and meaningful.”
The program has also included presentations from a volunteer on topics such as basic business skills and how to become more self-sufficient by adding to household income. Additionally, the Threads of Life program provides opportunities for the women to pursue leadership opportunities and learn to take responsibility for finishing a project, Padilla says.
Threads of Life will have a dedicated work space when the Intercultural Senior Center moves to a new location at the South Omaha YMCA at 30th and Q streets in early November. With an expanded work area comes the need for more volunteers and donations of material for use in projects.
“I wish more people would get involved with helping the seniors,” Hazel says. “It would be nice if we had more people to teach sewing, because there are so many more people who are interested.”
The Intercultural Senior Center offers other educational and social service programs, including basic English and computer classes, workshops on health and nutrition, health screenings, self-esteem activities and literacy classes in Spanish.
For more information on the program, to volunteer or to donate material, please contact Carolina Padilla at email@example.com or (402) 444-6529.
This is part of a series of articles on nonprofit agencies that have received Women’s Fund grants. The Intercultural Senior Center received $5,500 for Threads of Life. Find out more about Women’s Fund grants at www.omahawomensfund.org.