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Newly minted gardening space represents dozens of volunteers coming together for frail, homebound citizens

Community service is alive and well at the Gladstone Senior Center, and they've got a garden to prove it.

Tiffany Kirkpatrick, Gladstone's community services manager, gathered with Senior Center staff, volunteers, participants and community leaders for a ribbon-cutting to inaugurate their newly minted "Legacy Garden."PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Tiffany Kirkpatrick, Gladstone's community services manager, from left, and Senior Center Kitchen and Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Prusso, gather volunteers to celebrate the garden's opening.

"I'm just grateful; I mean, no one does anything alone," Kirkpatrick said. "I don't care how independent you think you are or want to be, it just can't happen. And if you don't acknowledge that, I believe you won't be blessed. You have to acknowledge the fact that we need each other. We just do."PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Senior Center Kitchen and Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Prusso unveiled the sign on Aug. 4 for the Gladstone Legacy Garden.

Gladstone Police Chief John Schmerber made an appearance to show local law enforcement's support. "The Senior Center is a very, very important location here in the city," Schmerber said. "It's meant to be a gathering place for community members, and that's what we're here celebrating, this beautiful garden area."

Pastor Benjamin Lundquist, Seventh-day Adventist young adult ministry director, has even been helping out with beautification projects.

"We, the Adventist church here in Gladstone, just started reaching out to the city looking for ways that we could serve the city of Gladstone," Lundquist said. "We got connected with Tiffany here at the Senior Center and just started asking her about their needs, what things they needed done but didn't have the man or womanpower to get done. She gave us a list and we went to work about two weeks ago and have been plugging away at those projects."

Some of those projects include building a brick flower feature on the property, mowing lawns and staining the new fence around the Legacy Garden.

"We're going to be planting a brand-new Christmas tree here on the property," said Lundquist, "at the request of the Senior Center, which will end up being the holiday tree that will get lit every year; it will be part of a lighting ceremony for the city of Gladstone. We're just honored to help, and we're excited about what's happening here at the Senior Center."

Once work began on the Legacy Garden project, people could see what they were doing, and more volunteers started rolling in. Gladstone Senior Center sits at the end of the Trolley Trail, a 6-mile multi-use paved route named for the old Portland Traction Company streetcar line right-of-way between Gladstone and Milwaukie. The trail connects neighborhoods, schools, parks, retirement communities and business districts. And it helps to bring in volunteers to the senior center.

"Every day people stop running, or walking or riding their bike," said Kirkpatrick, "and they go, 'Oh my god, that is so beautiful, look at this place.' And the next question is, 'What is this place?' and then we explain and then they say, 'Do you need volunteers?'"

Gladstone's Senior Center now has over 80 volunteers. Most volunteers are from the Gladstone area, but some come from Milwaukie and Oregon City as well. With a total staff of four, including Kirkpatrick, the center relies on volunteers for various tasks, including making and delivering meals and food boxes to isolated or homebound elders.

"We manage to run this center only because of the community volunteers that come in and take on the roles that we can't do by ourselves," Kirkpatrick said. "They're very dedicated. We need this group of people to make things happen here, and 80 is not a lot (of volunteers); we would love to have more, and then we can have people spend more time at people's homes when they deliver food, they can spend that time chatting with them and talking instead of worrying about the next house they have to get to."

The Gladstone Senior Center provides a myriad of community activities including art classes, yoga, Zumba, Tai Chi, and day excursions such as hikes, shopping trips and other outings. All this is above and beyond the daily meal services they provide to community members.PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Music therapist Liska McNally provided live music as people gathered on Aug. 4 at the Gladstone Senior Center to celebrate the Legacy Garden's opening.PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Tiffany Kirkpatrick, Gladstone's community services manager, from left, and Senior Center Kitchen and Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Prusso, prepare to cut the ribbon on the Legacy Garden.

"The Gladstone Senior Center is a place where people can find rest — a haven — and socialization with people like them or people that are different that they are," said Kirkpatrick. "They find a home and they find comfort in the welcoming environment — they can do bus trips, social activities, exercise, learn about health and wellness, and honestly just sort of sit back and know that they are going to be accepted and fully heard and seen in this space."

These services wouldn't be available without community support, Kirkpatrick said. That support comes in many forms: The Senior Center Foundation, started over 40 years ago, is a nonprofit group that has sustained the center's building. Community leaders provide support by showing up and spreading the word. Volunteers keep everything running.

Gladstone Senior Center

Open: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday

Where: 1050 Portland Ave., Gladstone

Call: 503-655-7701

Online: ci.gladstone.or.us/sc


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