Her quick step, ready smile and energy belie the fact that Wen-Shee Lee will soon turn 80 years old.
Born in China and raised in Taiwan, Lee immigrated to the United States 50 years ago. She moved to Orinda’s Monteverde Senior Housing more than a year ago and says she loves her new home. She enjoys traveling, seeing her three adult children, working in the community garden and helping her neighbors. “I try to help others when I can. If my neighbors go away on a trip, I get their mail and water their plants,” says Lee. “It’s not a lot but it helps.”
Lee also helps The Orinda Association’s (OA) Seniors Around Town (SAT) ride service program. Once a month, she walks through the Community Center Park to the OA’s office on the Library Plaza and donates $20 to SAT.
“It’s important to me to support this wonderful program. I’ve been a rider with SAT for almost a year now, and I really rely on it to get to my doctor appointments,” Lee says. “I’ve met so many nice drivers, and I love stopping by the office to talk with Cathy [Goshorn] who usually arranges my rides.”
Although the SAT ride program is free, Lee insists on giving what she can to ensure the program continues for herself and others.
While riders such as Lee benefit from the SAT service, it also provides a valuable experience for volunteer drivers such as Mayor Inga Miller.
“It is such an incredible asset to our community,” says Miller. “I have met so many amazing people driving. It’s my most favorite volunteer activity.”
Miller also notes how the service helps connect the community, especially the seniors, as drivers and riders get to know one another. She says an unforeseen benefit happened during preparation for PG&E’s October power shutdown. “The city staff needed to identify medically fragile members of the community who might need help during the power shutdown. We discovered the staff at SAT had a list and was already contacting them!”
Tish Harwood is another enthusiastic SAT driver. “I’ve met the most interesting, delightful individuals who have often led unique lives,” says Harwood. “Losing the ability to drive is a life-altering experience, and the riders are so appreciative and gracious. It leaves me feeling uplifted by their positive spirit in the face of adversity.”
Harwood isn’t the only family member who donates time to The Orinda Association’s programs. Her husband, Steve, also known as the Voice of Orinda, has been involved with the OA’s July 4th parade for over 20 years. If you’ve ever attended the parade, you’ve heard Steve announcing the various entries. He also acts as emcee and sound engineer for the SAT’s annual holiday luncheon. The Harwoods not only donate their time and talents, they make significant financial donations as well.
“I know Steve would agree with me that by getting involved with these wonderful community activities and organizations, we have received far more than we’ve ever given,” adds Tish.
Another husband-and-wife team who donate both their time and money are Mark and Claire Roberts. Both have served as OA board members and presidents. They can be seen each year on July 4th at the BART parking lot organizing parade entries. Mark is also part of The Orinda News editorial committee, which goes over the paper each month just prior to publication.
“I really enjoy reviewing the stories,” he says. “It’s rewarding to work with other ‘mini-editors’ who share my desire to get each feature in the paper just right for the readers.”
Claire adds, “We appreciate what the OA has meant to Orinda for more than 70 years, and we plan to be part of its future.”
Started in 1946, the OA works to maintain and improve the quality of life in Orinda. Prior to the city’s incorporation, the organization interacted with the county to ensure Orinda residents received their fair share of services. Now, the OA keeps active by running the SAT program, Fourth of July celebration, the Volunteer Center, publishing The Orinda News and sponsoring community forums.
To get involved as a volunteer for any OA program or send a tax-deductible donation, call 925-254-0800 or go to www.orindaassociation.org.
The Orinda Association Programs
The Orinda News
Published intermittently since its inception as Hayseed Siftings in 1893, The Orinda News has been continuously published by The Orinda Association since 1986. Delivered to every house and business in Orinda, the monthly publication also is available online at www.theorindanews.com.
Seniors Around Town
In operation since 2005, SAT provides free rides to Orinda residents for medical and other appointments through the use of volunteer, background-checked Orinda drivers. To register for the program, call the OA at 925-402-4506 or go to www.orindaassociation.org.
Fourth of July
The OA organizes the annual Fourth of July parade. In partnership with the city, the OA also offers a celebration in Community Center Park following the parade. To learn more, call 925-254-0800 or go to www.orindaassociation.org.
The Volunteer Center
The OA catalogs many volunteer opportunities both in Orinda and the surrounding communities. Listings are available at www.orindaassociation.org.
Informative Public Forums
The OA offers public forums on such topics as fire safety, emergency preparedness as well as panel discussions with local political candidates. Go to www.orindaassociation.org.
Orinda Classic Car Show
Begun in 2005 by Chip and Carolyn Herman and John Vanek, the popular show is now organized by The Orinda Association. Run by volunteers, the car show benefits many local nonprofit groups. For information, go to www.orindaassociation.org.