Glimmer of hope remains for OASIS

DOWNEY - Don't count OASIS out just yet.A proposal was made at the June 22 City Council meeting by Councilman Mario Guerra, immediately backed by Council members Dave Gafin and Roger Brossmer, that perhaps a way can be found to restore the OASIS program which saw its 35-year run end with an emotional retirement party for its founder and leader, Harriett Paine, last June 14. The sense was that Mayor Anne Bayer and Mayor Pro Tem Luis Marquez were in total agreement with the idea. OASIS, which stands for the Downey Adult School-run Older Adults Seeking Information and Skills program, drew an average attendance over the years of 100 senior citizens every Monday afternoon. Budget attrition and the advanced age of Paine, 89, who was the program's undeniable driving force, were given as the main reasons for the program's dissolution. Further inquiries revealed that it was Downey's man of ideas and activist Harold Tseklenis who at the City Council's regular session on June 8 first formally sounded the trumpet for OASIS' resurrection. Tseklenis allegedly declared that the city should be able to rescue OASIS which, to all intents and purposes, has enhanced senior citizens' lives and had indeed been a regular stop in the routine of their lives. Mention was made initially that OASIS could be held at the Barbara Riley Community Center, but it has since become clear that the center lacked the space and the culinary arts support facilities for the program's efficient operation. Thus, suggested Tseklenis, the venue should remain at the adult school's Harriett Paine Events Center, with an experienced and ready-to-go support staff already in place anyway, and a new program coordinator to take Paine's place. All the city has to do is to provide the funding; this way it won't overburden city staff unnecessarily. When the matter comes up for a vote, Tseklenis says "it appeared that city manager Gerald Caton would exert his expertise and find the funds needed to do so." Tseklenis subsequently pointed out that Dr. Bob Flynn, who was OASIS' pianist for a good number of years, is willing to "provide his entertainment to the program pro bono," while other music and dance groups in the city, including schools and the Downey Symphony, "would be glad with the opportunity to provide entertainment to the program as they have done in the past." The matter was assigned by Caton to community services director Thad Phillips for an in-depth look. Phillips said he will investigate OASIS' wherewithal, its cost history, staffing requirements, and so on, and make a report for approval by the City Council at some future date. For what it's worth, this reporter conducted a very unscientific random sampling of 'customer' opinion before the retirement program for Paine on June 14 commenced, by asking two ladies (who said they've been longtime program attendees) the question, "Will you miss OASIS?" The surprising answer was "No." Both ladies said OASIS was only one of several options they had in trying to fill their retirement years with meaningful and worthwhile things to do. This begs the question, "Are there other unexplored, viable options out there for older citizens, given present conditions?"

********** Published: July 15, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 13