Noe Valley Voice December 2012

Senior Centers Put Out the Welcome Mat

By George Nelson

Members of 30th Street Senior Center at 30th and Dolores streets can avail themselves of arts classes, gardening, exercise, and low-cost meals at two lunch seatings six days a week.    Photo by George Nelson 

Rumbling stomachs and tight budgets make for hard times, but two Noe Valley senior centers continue to serve free or low-cost meals to hundreds of elderly residents in and around the neighborhood.

Valorie Villela, director of the 30th Street Senior Center since 1987, wants seniors to know the center, at 225 30th St. near Dolores, is open six days a week including all holidays, even Christmas and New Year’s.

“I have been here through many challenges, but I know our work changes lives—you just have to look around. The holiday season is perhaps the most important time to make sure elderly residents have somewhere to go, as many live alone,” Villela said.

A division of On Lok, Inc., 30th Street feeds about 200 seniors (60 and up) at two daily lunch seatings Monday to Saturday. In addition, 230 homebound residents unable to cook or shop for themselves are taken care of with meals delivered throughout the week and frozen prepared dinners for Sunday.

“It helps my system work good, and the food is delicious,” said 77-year-old Ralph Manneia, who visits the center four times a week. “I’m from a Sicilian immigrant family, so I look forward to the spaghetti and meatballs. For two dollars it is a great value.” 

Eighty-year-old Lupe Bravo, who teaches weekly dance classes at the center, said, “I cannot visualize my life without this place. I even met my partner here. It is not uncommon for people to fall in love after meeting at the center. There have been many romantic stories.”

The November lunch menu also featured such dishes as fish Veracruz, pot roast, sesame chicken, pozole stew, and vegetarian lasagna.

Villela notes that besides the meal program, the center offers an array of arts, language, and other classes. “If you have not yet come by our center, please do so. We are always looking for volunteers, supporters, and new members. We are especially in need of volunteers to help in our computer lab and teach our seniors the benefits of the Internet.” 


For Anyone 60 or Older

Senior Alan Blackman dressed in festive wear for Noe Valley Senior Center’s pre-Thanksgiving lunch.    Photo by George Nelson

In early 2011, the Noe Valley Senior Center, which for decades operated in the Noe Valley Ministry on Sanchez Street, began serving its lunches in a new location at 725 Diamond St. near 24th Street. The fellowship hall at St. Philip’s Church now doubles as the senior center on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A record 32 seniors arrived for an early Thanksgiving lunch on Wednesday, Nov. 21, but numbers have dwindled in recent months, said Wendy Cohen, the center’s site coordinator for 14 years. She is eager to point out that the meals and socializing are available to anyone 60 or older Monday through Friday. 

“We are open for seniors from all walks of life. I think there is a stigma surrounding senior centers that they are only for the needy. They are not. People can come here and eat a hot meal while enjoying the company of others,” said Cohen.

Asked why numbers had fallen, Cohen replied, “Honestly, I just don’t think [seniors] know we’re here. It’s a matter of spreading the word. Our budget is not large enough to cover advertising, so any help we can get is hugely appreciated,” she said, adding that both the 48-Quintara and the 35-Eureka bus lines stop at the corner.

Potrero Hill resident Liz Nager travels to the center for lunch once a week. “It’s nice to be able to socialize. We play scrabble every Friday. It’s great to get out of the house.”

Project Open Hand, founded by the late Ruth Brinker, supplies the food. On the pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, volunteers served a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, and pumpkin pie. But every day’s meals are hearty and nutritious.

Cohen asks those who’d like to come for lunch to call 415-648-1030 a day ahead to reserve a meal. A $2 donation is suggested.


The 30th Street Senior Center offers two meal seatings daily, at noon and 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The suggested donation for a meal is $2. For more information, visit, call 415-550-2211, or email 

Noe Valley Senior Center serves lunch Monday through Friday at noon (closed on Christmas and New Year’s). Suggested donation: $2. Call the senior center at 415-648-1030 to make a reservation. Additional information can be found at