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City staff host benefit concert, taco bar dinner at community center at 38348 Pioneer Blvd.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Aaron Nigel Smith is a Portland reggae musician.For many in Sandy's elderly population, the community/senior center at 38348 Pioneer Blvd. is the hub of activity that draws them out of the house.

Carol Cohen, the city's events coordinator, and several others create programs and trips catering specifically to the senior citizens' year-round wants and needs. However, some of those opportunities cost the center, and in turn the seniors, money, creating a financial barrier for some patrons.

In an effort to defer costs for some would-be program participants, Cohen and crew will host a benefit concert and dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 17.

"We want to make it possible for seniors to participate, even if they can't afford it," Cohen noted.

Headlining the musical portion of the evening will be Portland-based reggae musician Aaron Nigel Smith, who Cohen first heard through his involvement in the Right Brain Initiative's artist-in-residence program at Oregon Trail Academy. When Smith heard about the cause, he quickly got on board.

The concert will begin at 7 p.m. upstairs at the center. Tickets are limited, going quickly and can only be reserved by calling the center at 503-668-5569. Tickets cost $5 for children and $10 for adults and won't be available at the door.

The dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. and feature a build-your-own taco bar with components cooked by Alma Perez of the Gresham restaurant La Herradera and former city councilor Olga Gerberg. La Milpa, La Cima, Timberline Meat and Grocery Outlet will provide dinner ingredients.

"Everything will be homemade and authentic," said Gerberg.

"We've never done anything lile this," Cohen added. "We're really excited."

Admission to the dinner is sold separately from the concert at $5 for children and $7 for adults. There is no limit on the amount of dinner tickets sold.

The trips provided by the center are valued by the staff as opportunities for seniors to experience "culture, diversity and independence."

"(Activities like those we offer) have been shown to lower the rates of depression and loneliness in seniors," noted Senior Services Manager Melissa Thompson. "They keep them independent longer and keep their minds and bodies active."

"I'm hoping this will be the first of many events like this," Cohen said.

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