Profile of a senior volunteer
It's traditional to donate money, goods, and time to charities during the holiday season... But for some San Diegans, volunteering to help others is a way of life year 'round. Karen Rostodha p
It's traditional to donate money, goods, and time to charities during the holiday season... But for some San Diegans, volunteering to help others is a way of life year 'round. Karen Rostodha profiles one woman who is dedicating her golden years to helping other seniors.
It's a routine morning for Anna Arnold. A three block walk to the bus stop, to board crowded bus #15 around 8 a.m.
Woman on bus: "Do you have a family?"
Anna Arnold, Volunteer: "No I'm alone here."
It's a 15-minute ride to downtown San Diego where Arnold gets off at the Senior Community Center on Ninth and Broadway to start her day.
Arnold: "Don't wait too long, it won't wait for you. Oh no, you don't have to touch it!"
Rostodha: "Okay you know how this place works."
Arnold: "I should!"
Arnold has been volunteering at the center seven days a week for 23 years.
Arnold: "I used to count money and what not. That was the other staff and then when this staff came, things changed."
What hasn't changed is that she's still going strong at 94 years old.
Arnold: "I don't look my age though, no body thinks I'm as old as I am and I don't dress it and I don't act it and I don't speak like an old lady."
Paul Downey, Senior Community Center CEO: "Well Anna is this place she really is the spirit of Senior Community Center!"
Rostodha: "Paul Downey runs the Center."
Downey: "If Anna were not to show up some morning we would be very concerned and would send somebody to her apartment to find out what's going on I mean she is that reliable I mean I have to tell people if I were paying her as an employee I'd be in serious trouble with the state Labor Board because she literally is here every day of the week."
The Senior Community Center is a non-profit that focuses on helping low-income seniors by providing healthcare & homeless services as well as two hot meals a day. Seniors pay what they can, which may not be anything at all.
Dianne Sanders, Food Services Operations Manager: "A lot of the seniors, I know that if we didn't feed them then they wouldn't have any food, so we service them breakfast and lunch and everybody's always hungry."
Rostodha: "Dianne Sanders supervises the dining room where Arnold hands out coffee tickets."
Sanders: "A lot of times I've been short staffed and I've have to be up here in the dining room and the money usually sits here on the table and she always watches, she answers the phone you know, she'll do anything."
Arnold: "I used to have a desk right over there - that was my desk right there."
Rostodha: "And what would you do, people would come to you for?"
Arnold: "Well I had different things I used to do at that time, then they needed it and they put my desk in this office, and they were going to get me a another desk. To this day I never got it."
Rostodha: "It's not too late, you're not done working here are you?"
Arnold: "Nope...I hope not!"
Rostodha: "She was born Anna Schwartz in Brooklyn, New York on March 16, 1911, to Polish immigrants who came through Ellis Island. Arnold's parents were orthodox Jews who wouldn't allow her to date outside her faith. But that didn't stop her from meeting sailor Wayne Arnold for a blind date at a roller skating rink."
Arnold: "And he was standing at the railing and there was a big metal door there were you come and go, and he went this way and I went like that, so I skated over real fast. And I thought he would stop me - he didn't stop me and I went right smack into the door. I cussed him out for everything he was worth, I was so mad!"
They eloped in December of 1930 and immediately Arnold says she was disowned by her family because her husband wasn't Jewish. It wasn't the first or last rejection the Arnold's faced because of their mixed-faith union.
Arnold: "We did put in to adopt a little girl, here in San Diego and see he isn't Jewish and I am, so they said that would have to send for a little girl from L.A. down here and would have to be a little Jewish, and I said I don't care if it's Jewish, Gentile, or what, I want to give a child a good home. And I left it that way and I went through a lot of red tape and it was almost approved, when we got out orders to go to Panama and I had to drop it or I would have been a grandma by now."
They never had children, but Arnold says they did have a wonderful 55-year marriage and life here in San Diego where they settled after doing military duty around the world. She has lived alone since her husband died in 1985.
Arnold: "Well he was very quiet, he didn't run around."
Arnold carries his photo with her everywhere.
Arnold: "And I talk to people and I show it so I have him in my heart all the time, constantly. This is what I looked like when I came out here and I brought this to work one year a long time ago and they all though I looked like an actress. This is my friend and neighbors."
Rostodha: "That's you in the middle?"
Arnold: "Yeah, that was taken at Pacific Beach."
Rostodha: "Wow look at the hat!"
Arnold: "To my darling husband, love Anna. I mailed it to him I guess."
Arnold's siblings have all died. She says she has no close relatives to speak of since her nephew tried to help himself to money from her bank account.
Arnold: "I don't want to ever set eyes on him."
Rostodha: "That was hard on you?"
Arnold: "Yes, very hard and I loved that kid, I would have done anything for him!
A social worker at the Senior Center helped Arnold recover her money.
Arnold: "I've always said that these are my people because I've been with them so many years."
Over the years, the staff at the center have helped Arnold with medical check-ups for her diabetes & heart problems. Recently she fractured her arm. But that hasn't slowed her down a bit.
Arnold: "I'm not dull! I keep myself going all the time, I'm not dull, I'll put it that way, I'm not dull."
And she's not shy about speaking her mind.
Arnold: "And I tell them the vegetables they do not cook them enough, were seniors a lot of them don't have good teeth! You know they should say something about the Jewish holiday the food or something you know, when it's Gentile holidays they have all kinds of food and everything! The Jewish holiday they could just go to hell you know!!"
Rostodha: "Anna, you come here seven days a week 365 days a year, what keeps you coming down here?"
Arnold: "Well, I like people and I always like to do for people, I'm belong to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Fleet Reserve, I'm still member still all these years and I've always done for them and when I came here I continued."
Downey: "I think for Anna it gives her a sense of purpose that's something unfortunately too many seniors don't have in their lives they don't have a reason to get up in the morning and still be active vital members of the community and many still have a lot to give."
Arnold (to friend): "You been alright, how come you haven't been here?"
Ben Isip is a regular and a friend.
Ben Isip, friend: "She's always doing something for the seniors, whatever, wherever she can help she's always there."
At 94 she's just about the most senior senior here, and the only volunteer working for more than two decades.
Arnold: "If they keep feeding me here, I'll keep still going."