On a hot summer day in July I met with Ellie Monroe, President of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute known as OLLI to discuss how they kept the programs going through the pandemic. “It was difficult and frustrating,” said Monroe, “We suddenly couldn’t come on campus. The ceramics class lost so much material, we had to replace the refrigerator because no one cleaned it out and the interior had mold beyond repair. Our computers and other equipment were not being updated regularly and you know electronics get outdated so fast if you don’t keep on it.”
Monroe and Bob Kovacev, Vice President of External Relations told me about the hardships that the pandemic caused OLLI. The team found themselves scrambling to learn how to use and teach Zoom to members who didn’t own or had an aversion to computers. Two of their members, Bob Newcomb and Jim Monroe paid thousands out of their own pockets to help keep the entire program going. They were reimbursed almost two years later. Twelve OLLI members went above and beyond helping each other navigate the pandemic and keep OLLI alive.
“We had 1600 members and then we went down to 750. Our membership is up to 1050 now as we are able to do more hybrid and in person classes,” said Monroe.
“Jim Monroe, Ellie Monroe, Bob Newcomb, Joyce Ono, Richard McCamann, Tom La Casa, Mark Hammel, Susan Hanna, Rick Hearn, Renee Cabrera, and Bob Riley were key people who developed presentations and workshops to get classes up and running,” said Kovacev.
“We started with 30 classes online and by the end of summer we had 45, it has been gradually increasing,” said Monroe, “We are like a big family.”
Just then Patsy Burns walked over to us. We were introduced and she said, “Oh tell them that this is the greatest program ever. It stimulates your brain and keeps you active. Everyone knows that a stimulated brain keeps you young and that a sedentary life is bad for your health.”
OLLI is having an Open House on Saturday, August 6 from 9am to noon. Located at Cal State Fullerton in the Ruby Gerontology Building on Gymnasium Dr. All are welcome.
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