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Byron de Arakal

BETWEEN THE LINES --

May 02, 2001

education and character development of their own children and of

thousands more during their careers in public education. In so doing,

they sacrificed much but prepared many.

Do I wander? Hardly. These senior citizens in my life are no different

than the 500 senior citizens who each day look forward to their visits to

the Costa Mesa Senior Center. These are folks who fought wars and took

bullets for our freedom. They crawled through the indignity of the Great

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Depression, scratched out a living, raised a family.

Yet as time has hurtled forward in their lives, they have often found

themselves abandoned, without friends or companionship. Our toss-away

culture is more content to warehouse them instead of engage them. We're

just too busy swilling our lattes and managing our portfolios.

All of which is why the Costa Mesa Senior Center is a beacon in our

community. Here these great folks who paved the road before us find

friendship and conversation, education and entertainment. They can find a

hot meal or a ride to the doctor's office. They learn how to operate

computers and manage their finances. They organize and take trips

together. They're just trying to squeeze every last ounce of life that

they can. Now if we were to spend a moment noodling with some

appreciation on what these things would mean to us in the sunset of our

lives (and it's coming), it is a wonder why each year the Costa Mesa

Senior Center has to crawl through the trenches and over barbed wire to

fund its operations. Nevertheless, it does.

Aviva Goelman, the center's executive director, runs herself nearly

ragged chasing down grants and corporate contributions. Goelman launched

the senior center's capital campaign in November, announcing an ambitious

target of $100,000. As you read this, $65,000 has come in with just a

month left in the campaign. That's not good enough in my book.

So as I scanned the weathered but knowing faces of those seniors

attending the volunteers luncheon Friday -- the folks who find sanctuary

and meaning at the Costa Mesa Senior Center -- I guessed at what

contributions they made to our country and our community throughout their

lives. "We owe these folks," I remember thinking.

So do you. Now, go mail that envelope.

* BYRON DE ARAKAL is a writer and communications consultant. He lives

in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays. Readers may reach him with

news tips and comments via e-mail at byronwriter@msn.com.

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