In this very month 45 years ago I took a “temporary” summer job with the Atascadero News, beginning what would turn into 35 years as a print journalist. In that role I and my fellow journalists reported on everything from 4H and FFA fair projects to school board, planning commission, city council and everything in between.
About the time I was learning about what organizations in the community would need coverage, a group of senior citizens was putting together the framework for a service organization aimed at senior citizens.
It wasn’t the first senior organization, because Atascadero Association of Retired People (AARP) was already holding meetings in its own building at Atascadero Lake Park. That group was basically a social club for seniors. It no longer exists.
The new group formed what would become Senior Citizens United Inc. (SCUI) and met at the elementary school cafeteria, in living rooms and even an abandoned eatery known as Nell’s Drive-In, then located in what is now Rabobank’s parking lot.
The first president was Charles Thompson.
I’m no longer a working journalist, but Senior Citizens United is still going. It has experienced some tough times and fallen into financial difficulties, but I was delighted to discover that SCUI is once again a vibrant organization providing many services to local seniors, still from its permanent home on East Mall within the shadow of the City Administration Building.
Soon the senior facility will benefit, along with Atascadero Historical Society and two other businesses, from a major downtown beautification project that will include a pedestrian bridge over Atascadero Creek. Visitors to the center will be able to stroll along those new walkways and rest in the shade of the large trees that front what is known as the Hagen Senior Center building.
It was named as a tribute to Ed Hagen who I got to know in the late 1970s; after retiring from the horse racing industry, Hagen was responsible for the group finding an old Colony home on the bank of Atascadero Creek. Ed secured a portion of federal revenue sharing funds administered by county supervisors to buy the house, the same funding source that helped Chalk Mountain Golf Course build here.
The new directors want to remind senior citizens they are open five days a week from 9 a.m. to noon. There are classes, free Wi-Fi and even what they call the Socrates Cafe on Tuesdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. where interesting discussions on all sorts of topics take place. They lend out such items as wheelchairs, walkers, canes and more, and also accept items as donations.
And during tax season, free tax preparation services are available.
They plan to offer more classes in the future and connect with the AARP-Senior Driving program. Call 466-4674 for details.
Of course, the nutrition center at the back of the Hagen building still is ground zero for the delivery of meals to local seniors as well as eat-in diners.
I sat in the living room of the Hagen Center last week with the new board and president, Larry Anderson. Membership is only $10 a year. SCUI does not receive any government funding — including from the city of Atascadero.
I’m so glad they’re still around and growing. And hey, I’ve grown into being a candidate for their care and services myself.
Lon Allan's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.