I spoke with Cortona Park Senior Activities Director Cheryl Ortiz about the many fine locals who come to entertain Cortona’s residents or simply share time with them. Since the residents aren’t as mobile most of us, the visits are a welcome diversion from the daily routine.
In addition to bingo and card games and movies, happy hour is a popular time at all these residences. It’s an opportunity to hear entertainers such as guitarist Michael Kistner singing songs that bring back memories, and Dave McClellan, whose powerful voice and warm smile make for a whole lot of fun (including those daring enough to join in on his karaoke machine).
Jack Convery brings his banjo, Ed Garzinsky his accordion and Dan DeSouza his guitar. Cortona residents get to hear spectacular singers Trusting Caliope (Jill and Susannah) and the remarkable Peter Arce, who can play anything on his piano – just hum a few notes of the tune, and away he goes. Accompanying Peter is his lovely wife, Victoria, who enjoys serving the wine that makes the song go down even finer.
Entertainers also include Johnny Rocket and the Candy Wrapper, plus the exquisite Denise Walker, who inherited her sensational voice from her dad – a member of the original Platters!
My husband and I had a load of fun at Cortona’s New Year’s Eve party dancing to the band Local Ease. Although the ball dropped at 9 p.m., the place was as festive as Time’s Square at midnight.
My mom is always telling me about the schoolchildren who often visit Cortona Park, singing, dancing or bringing treats they’ve made with their little hands and huge hearts.
Calling bingo are Betty and Ken Hopkins, and local teen Tyler Cowling, who’s a dead ringer for Justin Bieber. Even the Avon lady, Tammy Lynn, sets up her wares in the lobby to make shopping convenient and always offers a bunch of items on sale – or simply makes generous deals. Jean Denton comes every week to play cards and dice games with her favorite seniors. Cheryl recently held a volunteer recognition event honoring those who donate their valuable time.
Cheryl also organizes bus trips to local U-Pick farms and orchards, wine tours to Livermore and wonderful musicals and plays. For those with the itch to gamble, trips to the closest casino are also arranged. Some of these are free and some require only a minimal fee. I keep telling mom that she lives on a waterless cruise ship!
There are several wonderful places in our area such as Cortona Park and Westmont Senior Living, and they all provide not only activities, but safety and joy. They’re true families – and the volunteers get the very best of it: applause, smiles, hugs and kisses.
They even let me dance, but the jury’s still out on my singing.
Marla Luckhardt is a Discovery Bay resident and member of the East Contra Costa Senior Coalition. She works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.