Peninsula Volunteers celebrates 75 years of programs and activities for seniors | New


Peninsula Volunteers Inc., the Menlo Park nonprofit that was a national pioneer in programs for seniors, celebrates its 75th anniversary this fall with a new name and a glittering gala at the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel.

With an annual budget of $6 million, the voluntary organization, now called PVI, serves thousands of local seniors through a range of programs: Meals on Wheels, Rosener House Adult Daycare and Activity Center Little House — which offers everything from bridge and book bands to ceramics, dance and fitness classes, “waffle Wednesdays” and wine tastings — are among the programs run by PVI.

Since its inception, the volunteer group has helped redefine and expand services and activities for older people in Midpeninsula with the goal of empowering them to age in place. Programs for seniors have grown and evolved with the needs of the community, said PVI CEO Peter Olson.

“As the elderly couldn’t come to Little House, we started bringing food to them and as a result we are still providing meals on wheels,” Olson explained.

Before Alzheimer’s disease became widely known, the group opened Rosener House to meet the needs of those who could not come to Little House alone, he added.

“There are some amazing firsts that this organization has really kicked off, and it all started with Little House,” Olson said.

Little House became the nation’s first suburban senior center when it opened in a small cottage near its current location at 800 Middle Ave. in 1949 after several local doctors suggested that the new Peninsula Volunteers women’s service club focus its efforts on the emerging field of gerontology. .

“In modern city life, there is no place for people over 60 or 65,” physician Frank Hinman told volunteers at a 1948 meeting at the Menlo Circus Club, as the reported the Palo Alto Times. “They are driven from their jobs and forced to retire from most activities in life.”

The new activity center was created to be a place to “activate older people” and help them avoid the “psychological disturbances that affect older people … due to their resentment of the role they are forced to to play in modern life,” according to the newspaper article.

Little House quickly became a model for launching other senior centers across the country, Olson said. And in 1962, Peninsula Volunteers won the first federal grants for affordable housing for seniors, establishing Crane Place and Partridge Place, seniors’ apartment complexes totaling 123 units still operated today by a nonprofit organization. affiliate.

Melissa Badger, an event planner who organizes the 75th anniversary festivities, said as a child she worked alongside her mother, volunteer Shirley Matteson, who ran the Turnabout Shop on El Camino Real in the 1960s, who raised funds for PVI programs.

“We spent a lot of time there,” Badger recalls, attributing her lifelong interest in design to the hours she spent organizing merchandise at the Turnabout Shop, which closed in the 1990s.

“There’s a deep history to this organization,” which will be on display at the Oct. 1 gala, Badger said.

Today, PVI programs for seniors are powered by a mix of paid staff and volunteers. Sources of revenue for the $6 million annual budget are donations and private grants (64%); program and contract fees (20%) and government funding (16%).

PVI includes approximately 300 volunteers who step in to pack or deliver meals, coach seniors on technical issues, act as companions for cognitively challenged seniors at Rosener House, make birthday cards and gift bags or perform administrative tasks.

Ann Eisenberg, director of volunteer engagement for the group, said she had recently had no problems recruiting volunteers.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, Eisenberg said she received more calls and emails from potential volunteers than she could handle.

“With more people working from home, hours are more flexible and young people can help us during the day,” Eisenberg said. “We always have a steady flow of retirees who are contacting us as well.”

To volunteer or learn more about PVI, visit

PVI celebrates its 75th anniversary with a gala on Saturday, October 1 at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park. The event includes cocktails, dinner and dancing, plus a guest performance by Grammy, Tony and Emmy award-winning artist Kristin Chenoweth. A variety of items will be up for auction, including an opportunity to share the field and catch a pass from former NFL quarterback Joe Montana in the end zone at Rose Bowl Stadium. Tickets should sell out. For more information on the gala, visit

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Richard V. Johnson