Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Helen Keller
- Listen and act when the people who will use a service tell you what they need.
- Engage real participation from the very beginning of your work of all key segments of the community who can facilitate or block development.
- Genuinely entertain non-traditional solution possibilities.
- Keep volunteers enthusiastic and committed.
- Start with what you have. Don’t wait for a perfect solution.
The origins of the Center reveal several keys to its ongoing success. First, it was founded in direct response to the expressed needs and requests of those who would utilize the service. In addition, a wide variety of community entities represented by local government officials, educational leaders and private non-profit agency staff actively participated in the initial planning and implementation of the Center.
The commitment which was rooted in the “birth” of the program has remained in place for over thirty years. Third, there was willingness on everyone’s part to not let “old thoughts” prevent new and innovative thoughts from emerging. Finally, people were willing to roll up their sleeves and work.
In 1970, Stanford University was awarded a Regional Medical Program Stroke Project by the federal department of Health, Education and Welfare. Part of the regional data collection included the Santa Cruz area. Research conducted with the cooperation of Dominican Hospital found that local individuals suffering the after effects of stroke needed more accessible and more comprehensive care in both acute and long-term rehabilitation phases of their recovery.
As a result of these findings, a local Stroke Advisory Board was formed with members representing local government, the medical community, stroke survivors, and private nonprofit health and human service agencies. In 1971, this Board formed the first Stroke Club in Santa Cruz. The aim was to offer opportunities for socialization, education and recreation for both stroke survivors and their spouses and caregivers.
The Stroke Club thrived, meeting regularly and maintaining close ties to the Stroke Advisory Board. Stroke Club members found that they shared a common complaint: Their attempts to participate in local Senior Centers were unsuccessful. They felt embarrassed because of speech deficits and physical challenges that made it impossible to participate in the group exercises. They were also reluctant to join with more able peers in craft, dance and outing activities.
The Stroke Club requested that the Stroke Advisory Board develop an Activity Center especially designed for them. From this request, the fundamental design of the Center emergeda powerful model combining three key components:
The Center opened in 1974, under the guidance of founding director, Edie Nelson. There were 13 students, from the Stroke Club attending for four hours one afternoon a week in the multipurpose room of a local Elementary School.
The cooperating founding entities were active and visible in the establishment of the fledgling program. Thirty years later these ties are still significant.
The local school district provided the elementary school space. Cabrillo College provided instructors specializing in speech, occupational and physical therapy as well as a director. Two private non-profit agencies stepped in: the Visiting Nurses Association offered office space, a typewriter, and a telephone; and the Family Service Association provided counseling services. The County of Santa Cruz, with Federal Revenue Sharing funds, began providing for the non-instructional costs. Although formal ties with Family Service and VNA are no longer there, the mutual respect and understanding that was created remains, with both agencies willing to offer assistance and support when needed. The County of Santa Cruz continues to annually assist in the funding of the Center.
The original design and the fundamental principles of participation have held true during three decades of development. And, the model has proven flexible enough to accommodate multiple challenges: explosive initial growth; ongoing funding challenges; changes in the focus of the California community college system; changes in curriculum that come with changes in instructional staff; a major earthquake; constant tests of ingenuity provided by a 70 year old borrowed building; shifts in leadership style of local government councils and boards, four college presidents, and three Center Directors!
Lessons from the Origin of the Center
Lessons Learned Along the Way