Jovenes de Antaño: serving the elderly since 1975

Started in 1975, Jovenes de Antano provides much needed services to the elderly population of San Benito County.

Nonprofit organization Jovenes de Antaño was created in 1975 after seeing a need to support elderly individuals in the community.

“We had a passion for the elderly,” said Pauline Valdivia, executive director and one of the nonprofit’s founding members. “We found a lot of people who lived alone, were malnourished, and needed help.”

The young organization found an old, vacant laundromat on Hawkins Street in Hollister and converted it into a community center. The group now operates out of the Hollister Recreation building at 300 West Street.

“We started serving meals at the center and then started to do delivery,” Valdivia said. “We grew from that.”

Today, Jovenes de Antaño provides free meals to the elderly in the community through an onsite dining facility in Hollister and San Juan Bautista, as well as through their Meals on Wheels program. The group provides services for over 1,000 people on an annual basis, Valdivia said, which includes about 20,000 meals served a fiscal year or about 80 meals a day.

Though there is a $2.50 suggested donation for each meal to people who qualify to receive service, no one is denied food due to lack of personal funding.

Jovenes de Antaño also provides other services like free transportation for elderly citizens age 60 and up (and for people with disabilities under age 60), as well as case management, exercise programs, and multiple support groups in areas such as caregiving. Additionally, the nonprofit provides welfare checks to clients of the Meals on Wheels program.

“Some people have families but most don’t,” said Richard Vasquez, a delivery driver for Meals on Wheels. “My favorite thing in regards to driving is interacting with old folks. [It’s good to know that] everyday someone’s going to see them.”

If a client does not answer the door when food is being delivered, all drivers are trained to contact the office. That begins the process of contacting the client and their family if the client does not respond. If the client is not able to be contacted, or their whereabouts are not found, the organization calls the police.

Walter Ormonde started volunteering with the organization eight years ago and is now a client of the organization himself. Calling the organization a “life changer”, Ormonde currently receives meals through the Meals on Wheels program due to multiple medical issues, including damaged discs in his back and severe degenerative arthritis.

In addition to appreciating the support he receives through this program, Ormonde credits the success of Jovenes de Antano to the employees who work there.

“You don’t find short-term employees there,” Ormonde said. “[The employees] see what a benefit the organization is for the community.”

From his years volunteering onsite, Ormonde also said that the Hollister dining facility has become a place to socialize and feel connected to others for the elderly who participate in the program.

“People go there and visit with each other,” Ormonde said. “The meals are great. [The dining facility is special due to] the togetherness that people have there and the friendships that they make.”

Clients are not the only ones who benefit from the services provided by this organization, the employees do as well.

Taking care of his parents until their deaths, Vasquez said he learned valuable lessons about himself through the process that he feels are also present in his current job.

“I’m a better person, better at understanding, more compassionate, and more empathetic,” Vasquez said while reflecting on what he gained working with the elderly community.

Although Jovenes de Antaño has been in operation since 1975, it’s a continual struggle to find funding to keep the doors open and provide for all people in need.

Currently, the nonprofit organization gets part of its funding through the Older Americans Act of 1965 for federal funding, as well as a state-provided funding match through the California Department of Aging in Sacramento.

Through local donations and funding from organizations such as the Community Foundation for San Benito County, these funds have been matched, Valdivia said. But even with this, not everyone who has applied for services with Jovenes de Antaño have been able to receive services.

“I have a waiting list right now because we don’t have enough funding to provide extra meals,” Valdivia said. “It is about 60 people on the waiting list.”

Still, Ormonde credits local volunteers, donations, and employees such as Valdivia for keeping the doors open and creating a positive atmosphere for all people involved in the services provided.

Said Vasquez: “Historically people are judged by how they treat the youth and the elderly. The question is what are we willing to give up? What will be our priorities in the future?”

More information on Jovenes de Antaño can be found on the nonprofit organization’s website or by calling (831) 637-9275.

Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.