By Jade Shojaee
The lady behind the success of the Pinole Senior Center
This past Valentine’s day, the City of Pinole Senior Center hosted a luncheon like you’ve never seen a senior center host a luncheon; and it won’t be the first time. Some 200 people gathered to fill the center’s exquisitely dressed tables, and enjoy a house-cooked meal served by a team of enthusiastic volunteers.
“The big dining room is where the magic happens,” said Georgia Manesis, the center’s Food Program & Special Events Committee Chairperson. Manesis has been in charge of special events since late ‘92 after retiring from her successful career as a program analyst. “I have a grasp of the big picture,” Manesis said of her ability to throw magazine-worthy events at a humble Pinole facility. “We’re the only center in the area that cooks their own food.”
Manesis has been in charge of special events and fundraising for 20 years, but before that, she worked in the kitchen, and drove the seniors on “van trips.” “Once or twice we’ve been to Santa Cruz,” she said. “We’ve been to Jackson, I mean, we went long ways so I would drive all day. We have our favorite places to eat in Half Moon Bay. I drove us places that I’ve never been before, and I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life.”
“It’s a fabulous ride. We would usually plan a tour or something like a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Manesis. “We always did lunch. The trips got longer and longer and then we’d stop for ice cream on the way home.”
Manesis said that she had to stop driving the seniors when her Driver’s License became invalid in California (she now has an Idaho license) but that doesn’t stop her from driving back and forth to Idaho, to visit her daughter and the log cabin she is currently in the process of restoring. She also drives to Arizona to visit her sister, and boasted that she makes the entire trip in just one day. “I drive it in one day, I don’t know why you wouldn’t drive it in one day,” she said.
Aside from her love of road trips, Manesis has been ballroom dancing for about 25 years. “My Dad belonged to a dance club but my Mom did not like to go, so he taught my sisters and I how to dance.” When asked if she ever thinks about competing she said that it’s not something she has considered. “I probably could but that’s not fun to me,” she said. “I’d rather dance for the sheer enjoyment of dancing.” Manesis dances at the senior center where she said she has learned to lead because “there aren’t enough guys.”
For the time being, she is enjoying being the center’s resident party planner. This year’s Valentine’s Day event included a one-hour entertainment session hosted by Shirley Dourgasian, who will sing “karaoke style, and dress up for the occasion.” Over a chuckle, Manesis recalled that every Halloween, Dourgasian wears a cheerleader outfit, and regales the crowd with the story of how her mother “paid 52 bucks for this sweater, and by-god I’m getting her money’s worth.”
Music and comedy aside, the event featured a dinner of roast beef, dessert and salad. “I mean we really make it nice,” said Manesis. “A lot of people work lots of hours there, they work their butts off.”
Our budget for the center is $250,000, Manesis said that center really pulls their weight in fundraising events. According to Manesis, you can expect to find the seniors partying away almost once a month, in celebration of holidays varying from Christmas to Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s Day.
According to Manesis, every third Sunday of the month the center hosts a pancake breakfast, at which local kids volunteer. “People’s grandchildren, the girls on a local middle school’s swim team, De Anza students, lots of kids just show up and say ‘hey do you need some help’.” Furthermore, and this may be a shock you, the center runs a library in which there are no late fees. In fact, you do not even have to check out the book. “Take whatever you want,” said Manesis, “nobody checks you in or out.”
The Pinole Senior Center can be found at 2500 Charles Avenue, and all (old and young) are welcome to join the festivities that are always taking place there.