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Aiming to serve more, Intercultural Senior Center to break ground on $6.2 million facility
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Aiming to serve more, Intercultural Senior Center to break ground on $6.2 million facility

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Intercultural Senior Center

A rendering of the new 22,000-square-foot Intercultural Senior Center.

After four moves in nine years, the Intercultural Senior Center is set to move again, this time to a permanent home that will allow the nonprofit to serve more clients.

The organization has outgrown its rented space within the YMCA building in South Omaha. This week, it will break ground on a $6.2 million facility at 5545 Center St. Construction is expected to be complete by 2019.

When she founded the senior center in 2009, Executive Director Carolina Padilla wanted to provide services to elderly Latino immigrants. Four years later, the organization welcomed refugee seniors from Sudan, Somalia, Bhutan, Nepal and Burma. Now, between 50 and 100 seniors come to the center daily. Half of them have Latino backgrounds; 45 percent are refugees. Clients come from 25 different countries. Walk in on a weekday morning and you’re likely to hear between five and seven languages.

Padilla said the nonprofit’s work is focused on reducing the isolation that older adults can feel, often made worse by poverty, language barriers and lack of transportation.

The majority of the seniors use the van service provided by the center. Between provided meals, clients can take citizenship and English as a second language classes, try tai chi or Zumba, learn how to salsa dance, sew or garden. They also can receive case management services and attend support groups.

“We are so proud to care for the under-served aging (people) in our community,” Padilla said. “And now we’ll be able to expand that.”

The new, 22,000-square-foot facility will be twice the size of the center’s current rented space. Instead of partitioned-off rooms for activities, the new building will have individual classrooms and a space for health clinics and wellness checkups. The center’s hours, now from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., also may be extended as additional partnerships with other nonprofits lead to more programming.

Padilla said she hopes the center’s new location brings increased visibility and community understanding about the services offered to seniors of all backgrounds.

Projections from the City of Omaha Planning Department show that the proportion of Douglas County’s population over age 60 was 16.5 percent in 2010 and will rise to 20 percent in 2020.

“We want to bring more awareness that there is a need to support all our seniors,” Padilla said. “We are all aging. We will all need that support at some point.”

Back in 2009, Padilla said she dreamed of creating a facility to serve a wide range of needs for an aging population. After a successful capital campaign, she said she feels the community is supportive of that goal.

The permanent home will ensure that the work continues, she said.

“This was my vision,” she said. “And this is the best time for us. We have accomplished a lot and we are looking forward for the best years yet to come.”

mara.klecker@owh.com, 402-444-1276

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