What Does St. Anthony Park Area Seniors Mean?


Keeping a Senior Active

When, at age 67, Elaine Jones was recovering from heart surgery, her nurse told her about a service that would provide rides to and from her physical therapy sessions. For six weeks, three times a week, Elaine gratefully accepted transportation that helped her complete the scheduled therapy.

Later, she learned about other services provided by St. Anthony Park Area Seniors, and she’s had help with raking and snow shoveling, which helps her continue to live in the St. Anthony Park house she’s owned since 1972. She also found out about activities sponsored by SAPAS, but at first she resisted attending those.

“I wasn’t sure I would fit in,” Elaine said. “Plus, it’s hard for me to start with a group where I don’t know anyone.”

However, she did eventually consent to attending a Leisure Center session, the weekly luncheon and social time that SAPAS supports at the St. Anthony Park Campus of Centennial United Methodist Church. And she was so impressed with the people she met—both organizers and participants—that she’s been coming regularly ever since.

“One thing that struck me was how everyone respects each other,” she said.

Elaine has participated in other SAPAS activities: exercise sessions, arts-and-crafts events, movies, excursions. Recently, she attended a poetry workshop offered by Naomi Cohn. These activities have brought her in contact with a variety of people, and it is those connections, she believes, that are just as important as the physical services she receives.

“If you just sit in your house all the time, you decay,” she said. “Meeting people who are in similar situations to my own makes me feel like, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”

Elaine has lived alone for many years and considers herself independent and resourceful.

“But I’m a realist,” she said. “There are more things I need help with now. The day may come when I can’t stay here, but for now this is where I want to be.”

Volunteering Brings Variety to this Volunteer's Life

Volunteers for St. Anthony Park Area Seniors undergo a background check. Carl Willis passed his, so SAPAS leaders were unaware they’d taken on a skilled second-story man.

Willis (no relation to the former Twins pitcher with the same name) had an opportunity to use his breaking-and-entering skills one day when he picked up Elaine Jones for an event at the library. As Elaine was getting into his car, she realized she hadn’t shut her front door.

“Carl, could you go up and close my door?” she asked.

Willis did so, instinctively reaching around and pushing the lock button before pulling the door shut. He reassured Elaine that he’d locked the door before closing it.

“But I don’t have a key,” she said. “I never lock my door.”

Carl told her not to worry, assuring her that he’d figure something out. That involved finding a neighbor with an extension ladder, climbing to a second-story window, cutting the screen, going through the window head-first, then descending the stairs and unlocking the front door—an escapade he undertook with Elaine’s permission and the help of SAPAS Program Coordinator Katharine Tondra, who held the ladder.

Most of Willis’ volunteering work for SAPAS has been more conventional than that. He drives people to appointments and SAPAS events, as well as delivering Meals on Wheels. Once a week he helps a housebound SAPAS client sort mail and organize things.

He got involved with SAPAS two years ago at the suggestion of his daughter, a social work major for whom one school assignment included interviewing Mary Hayes and Katharine Tonga.

“I’d just retired and was wondering what I would do with my time,” he said. “Through my daughter, I found out about SAPAS. It’s turned out to be a great fit.”

Indeed, the fit was so good that last summer Willis joined the SAPAS Board, where he is vice chair and also chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Besides his duties for SAPAS, Willis is heavily involved at his church, Central Presbyterian. Of late he’s been helping a recent immigrant practice for the driver’s license test.

Willis’ experience has mirrored that of many volunteers. Though he’s performing a service for others, he feels like he receives as much as he gives.

“People usually express their thanks,” he said, “but even if they don’t, knowing I’m appreciated is all I need.”


A St. Anthony Park Area Seniors participant has found SAPAS to be full of care

“We all take care of each other.”

That’s Rose Hendrickson, talking about the people she’s met through activities sponsored and supported by St. Anthony Park Area Seniors.

Rose lives with her daughter and family in St. Anthony Park. She’s not isolated, but she has come to appreciate and depend on the wider network of people she’s become involved with through SAPAS.

Her attention was drawn to the organization through something she read in the Park Bugle.

“I’d recently retired,” she said, “and was looking for something to do.”

Rose has described her first SAPAS experience in a poem she wrote as part of a writing workshop offered by Naomi Cohn through SAPAS. By participating in exercise classes two or three times a week, Rose feels better physically but also emotionally.

“If I can’t make it to a class, I miss it,” she said, “and people miss me. They notice I’m not there and ask me about it next time.”

That goes not only for exercise classes but also for Leisure Center, the weekly luncheon that SAPAS supports at the St. Anthony Park campus of Centennial United Methodist Church.

“It’s been wonderful to be part of a group of people I care about and who care about me,” she said.

In temperate months, Rose walks to exercise class and Leisure Center. During the winter, she appreciates the rides that SAPAS volunteers provide. She also attends other SAPAS activities, such as game days and fish fries.

“I have a busy life,” she said, “and the friends I’ve made through SAPAS are a big part of it.”

Here is a piece written by Rose at the recent poetry class.

First Leisure Center/SAPAS Experience

by Rose Hendrickson

Smiling faces greeting me

Introductions, explanations, directions

   (to be repeated as necessary)

Part of me wanting, so badly, to turn and run

But first, off to exercise class . . .

More introductions, directions, explanations

   (to be repeated OFTEN)

Unbelievable patience of staff

Much more work than I expected

After our workout . . .

Out to a wonderful homemade lunch
   and chatting.

Three years later—

I’m a regular!

I’m in better physical shape than I have been in years!

I have all sorts of new friends!

And I’ve become one of those smiling faces happily greeting newcomers.