A Celebration of Community

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Nadia Babayi
Nadia Babayi is the executive director of local nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors.

As leaders at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Senior Center reminisce on the facility’s first decade in town, a new project is also in the works for Laguna Beach Seniors.

By Ashley Ryan

 

Since opening its doors in 2009, the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Senior Center has impacted locals of all ages, offering a range of programs, classes, events and art exhibits. Children can immerse themselves in art workshops, dance lessons and more—and parents can have similar experiences, or opt to learn about things like meditation, foreign languages, self defense, caregiver support and more.

Throughout the last decade, the center has worked to maintain a warm, welcoming place for locals to gather, learn and socialize. Run by the city’s Community Services Department as well as longtime nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors, it’s the ideal place for senior citizens to get medical and lifestyle assistance, pick up a new skill, enjoy a new meal, make friends—or all of the above.

Nadia Babayi, who is executive director of Laguna Beach Seniors and has been involved with the Susi Q center for more than eight years, says that it has been an important place for seniors to explore their health and wellbeing, engage in educational workshops and spend time with those who know and value them. Here, we explore how the LBS organization hopes to keep fostering these relationships at the center for another decade and beyond.

 

What changes have you noticed in the last 10 years?

Nadia Babayi: The Susi Q has been the basis for a transformation from a volunteer-intensive organization to a professionally managed senior services agency. … During the past 10 years of operations at the Susi Q, the board and staff have focused on building the best program, reaching out to engage the community, working effectively with the city’s community center and ensuring solid volunteer support. … Annual programs … increased from 23 to 80. Quarterly attendance [went from] 635 to 6,000 individuals.

What did the center do to celebrate its milestone anniversary?

The 10-year anniversary was celebrated at our annual fundraiser—[the] Legacy Ball—in April 2019, when 200 donors [and] supporters gathered to celebrate our accomplishments. At the Susi Q, we celebrated by holding a joint open house with the city’s Community Services Department on Saturday, May 18. … Additionally, we are launching a planned giving campaign in 2019 to establish an endowment to secure a financial future for Laguna Beach Seniors.

Which services are currently offered and who can take advantage of them?

The Susi Q provides a spectrum of services. … Professional case managers reach out to help frail older adults live safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible. … Nutritional services, like free groceries for low-income seniors, home-delivered meals and an on-site lunch program, are provided at minimum expense. … A fitness program, in conjunction with the city’s Community Services Department, includes weekly classes in yoga and dance, table tennis and other options that keep seniors engaged in age-appropriate physical activity. … We provide a series of on-site seminars about issues of importance to seniors like estate planning and financial management, and also lectures on issues of interest like history and travel. … Every day, seniors engage with each other in both formal and informal discussion. They participate in special events and travel groups. They enjoy recreational activities of all kinds. While this may appear to be less critical than health care, nothing could be further from the truth—providing a sense of community is perhaps more important than any other of the many services provided by LBS.

Which classes are currently available at the center?

We offer 80-85 classes, workshops, activities, clubs [or] special events every quarter, most of which are free of charge for seniors. … Fall prevention, Ukelele Academy, writing classes and bridge remain the most popular programs at the Susi Q.

Tell me about Gallery Q. What types of exhibits do they host?

Gallery Q brings five art exhibitions to the public annually. … Through these shows, we exhibit works from over 250 emerging, semiprofessional and professional artists. … Whereas Gallery Q was initially perceived to be an informal showcase for the art of Laguna’s 55-plus population, it has become much more during the past seven years. … We also dedicate Gallery Q to exhibits for local elementary, middle and high school students, and the Boys & Girls Club children, which fulfill[s] our goal of creating intergenerational opportunities.

What improvements is the center working on?

Our most recent project is called Lifelong Laguna, … [which] is a support network that helps seniors age safely and comfortably in their existing homes with help from staff, trained volunteers and professional service providers. By participating in the global “aging in place” movement, we deepen the community’s commitment to those who have long made Laguna Beach their home.

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