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Gloria, Senior Center

Throughout her life, Gloria has always remained a strong, independent businesswoman. As a parent of five children, she, along with her husband instilled in their five children the idea that success is obtained by getting a solid education.

Although she had only a 4th grade education herself, Gloria always found ways to provide for her family in Ecuador. From attending school for nursing to working from home in sales to selling crafts, Gloria always made sure her children had educational opportunities.

With successful children who lived in the United States, Gloria remained in Ecuador until her husband’s passing in 2001. Alone and depressed, Gloria agreed to live with her daughter Soraya in Milwaukee in August of 2001.

“It took the staff and my daughter one month to fully convince me to attend the Senior Center,” recalls Gloria.

Still grieving her husband’s loss and increasingly in need of medical care, Gloria found it difficult to adjust. As the first Ecuadorian, Gloria found it difficult to relate to the other seniors and spent the majority of her time alone. Noticing she was withdrawn, the staff began to try to get her involved in activities.

“I remember that a staff person tried to start an arts and crafts club,” said Gloria. “She bought some materials and started teaching us how to make small things like woven baskets. I didn’t like any of the designs, so I told her I would not do it. But she said everyone had to participate and socialize with each other.”

The next day, Gloria arrived with a bag full of instructional books and materials for the other seniors, thinking that was enough participation on her part.

“She said I needed to do it too,” said Gloria. “I couldn’t get out of it. So she put me to work. The first craft I did was a beautiful bird with clouds and trees.”

To Gloria’s surprise, she enjoyed learning how to make different crafts. Soon, she became the teacher and began guiding the arts and crafts club. Using her business skills, Gloria found a way to give back. The crafts they make are sold, and the profit is used to buy materials to sustain the club.

“We kept making different things, and they would just sit there,” said Gloria. “So I started putting prices on them.”

Through the arts and crafts club, Gloria has made friendships with other seniors, including her best friend Juanita.

“Now, you can’t stop her from coming. On the weekends, all she does is talk about the Senior Center,” says Soraya, her daughter and caregiver.

Through a partnership with 16th Street Clinic, the Senior Center has an on-site clinic that allows Gloria to attend medical appointments by herself. With free transportation as well, Gloria is able to attend the Senior Center every day. Taking charge of scheduling her appointments, socializing with friends, and teaching arts and crafts has kept Gloria independent.

“When she’s at the Senior Center, she lives. When she’s at home, she’s tired and watches TV. The Senior Center and the arts and crafts club gives her a purpose. It makes her feel wanted and makes her want to keep living,” reflects Soraya.

“I like coming here. I have fun and I laugh,” said Gloria.

Now, after more than a decade of coming to the Senior Center, Gloria is thankful for the staff and friends that were able to get her through her depression and the loss of her husband.

“The best day was when I came to the Senior Center for the first time.”