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People in Your Neighborhood: La Jolla Community Center director Nancy Walters on staying connected

Nancy Walters is the executive director of La Jolla Community Center.
(Courtesy)

PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! If you know someone you’d like us to profile, call us at (858) 875-5950 or e-mail editor@lajollalight.com

La Jolla Community Center (LJCC) executive director Nancy Walters knows the value of good programming and has worked for nearly a decade to ensure La Jolla’s senior citizens stay involved and connected through fun and challenging activities.

“The mission of the LJCC (located at 6811 La Jolla Blvd.) is to provide programs and services that promote lifelong learning, wellness and friendship,” Walters reminded the Light, a goal the native San Diegan has worked toward during her tenure at the helm.

“We have everything from physical exercise and learning classes to concerts, speakers and daytrips to try and integrate, engage and connect with each other. That’s such an important element of overall wellness,” she said, adding more about her work and the importance of the LJCC now more than ever.

What does the La Jolla Community Center do well?

“We have a fantastic staff — two full-time employees, two part-time — and a working board instrumental to our day-to-day activities. Having such a great team behind us allows us to have great outreach with our 800 members, who will tell you LJCC provides a cozy, family-like environment. We take pride in really knowing our members. Our communication and interaction with them is one of the most important things we offer.”

What are the biggest concerns for members during the COVID-19 crisis?

“All the uncertainty is causing some fear. But people are trying to stay informed and do what they can to lessen the effects of this pandemic. The lack of mobility and socialization is a concern for our members, too. A lot of them, no matter how independent they are, are missing communication and connection. The statistics on isolated seniors and senior orphans (those without family or friends around them), are staggering, especially now.”

How is LJCC modifying its services while in quarantine?

“We are definitely moving our diverse programming into digital formats, ramping up what’s available online. We’re also doing daily outreach to our members, making phone calls and continuing personal connections with them. We’re asking how they are, if they’re in need of anything, do they have anyone who can get to the store and help them get what they need? A simple phone call, a video session, a semblance of normalcy for them, is often all it takes.”

LJCC launched its Distinguished Speakers Series last month, with many scheduled. Are there plans to host those online now?

“We have currently put everything on hold; that might be an option for us later, but as of right now, people are a little overwhelmed and we’d rather postpone it.”

How is LJCC funded?

“We are a private nonprofit. All our funding comes from classes and events, as well as donations. We apply for grants from various organizations for capital improvements and operational funds. Right now (due to everyone sheltering-in-place), we’re a bit worried because we’re not generating our usual revenue. Our board made the decision to keep the staff right now, knowing we’re committed to our members. We’re using our operating funds to cover our overhead and we’re getting rid of nonessential expenses. We will be staying on course with our Spring Fundraiser in mid-April and we’ll be asking the community for their help to sustain our services. Keeping people connected right now is really important.”

How is LJCC leadership meeting during this time?

“Our staff is doing Zoom sessions and the board is having its first Zoom meeting later this month. With the executive committee, we’re doing phone calls, texts, and e-mails on a daily basis.”

Are you finding any good news amid this crisis?

“We’re using this as an opportunity to go that grassroots way of really connecting with people. It’s sometimes so easy to just shoot an e-mail or text to somebody, but right now everyone is missing that person-to-person connection. This gave us an opportunity to get creative and continue phoning our members to find out how they’re doing, what they have, what they need.”

How are you handling the quarantine, personally?

“In addition to working a lot from home, I’m doing a lot of home organization, a lot of cooking I never found time to do, and Skyping with family. Of course, Netflix is big on that list! I’m painting as well; I find it really relaxing.”

What is the LJCC looking forward to once crisis restrictions are lifted?

“Everyone is looking forward to a sense of normalcy and going back to doing what we do best, which is having a plethora of great events for our seniors and community.

Having that connection again is what we’re most excited for. In the meantime, I want members and the community to know we are still here (in a slightly different capacity) and will be here for them once we re-open.

The community of La Jolla has really inspired me every day with its generosity, creativity and kindness.”

— For more information on La Jolla Community Center, as well as a current, comprehensive resource list for seniors, visit ljcommunitycenter.org