Lauren Overlock and Carlye Teel at Ballard Senior Center.
At Large in Ballard: Dear Santa
By Peggy Sturdivant
We were supposed to be discussing the upcoming Santa Breakfast but Ballard Senior Center Director Carlye Teel and I were temporarily distracted by her $33,000 deficit. Carlye looked uncharacteristically worn.
“Board meeting tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll figure it out.” I asked a few questions and of course she started to warm to her subject, a first-time partnership with Adams Elementary, for a holiday event. Her granddaughter is at Adams, or at least its pre-school, so Teel had the idea of involving their PTA in a Santa Breakfast to raise funds for the Senior Center and Adams PTA (5% to Adams). The 4th graders and a Girl Scout Troop are going to be helpers.
The breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 7th also includes the opportunity to have Santa photos taken locally for $20. Photography teacher Boon Goh will be at the camera.
“Pancakes,” Carlye said. “All kinds. Five dollars for adults and $3.00 for kids under age ten. And scrambled eggs: I don’t know how Donna makes them taste so good. And ham, and hot chocolate.” We established that the center will be decorated beyond imagination, and there will also be a Mrs. Santa Claus.
“Live music?” I asked. I watched the question become an idea.
“We were just going to play CDs,” she said. Carlye called out to the volunteer at the desk. “Can you find me Lauren?” Lauren Overlock is the Activities Director. “Someone playing carols at the piano is a great idea.”
While volunteers searched the club for Lauren, Carlye and I talked about Lockhaven Apartments, sold to Goodman Real Estate in August. The apartments are not only just across the street but the view from her desk. She looked worn again. “I have 25-30 people over there,” she said. “I hear about it every day.” She glanced down at her desk again, as though that deficit might disappear.
“Do you know John Goodman?” she asked. “I hear he has a very philanthropic side.” I shook my head. I don’t know him. I just know of him.
Lauren Overlock appeared; she’s a whirlwind since becoming Activities Director at the Senior Center.
She went off immediately to track down a piano player and locate contact information for Adams PTA.
I’ve written several columns over the years about the Ballard Senior Center but the number of people using their services keeps growing and their funding keeps shrinking. Their ongoing existence is never guaranteed; funding through the City of Seattle’s Senior Services decreased during the economic downturn. However new construction is on the up.
“But where’s the money going?” I asked. In October the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reported a “$41M payday” for Goodman Real Estate when they sold two apartment buildings they’d developed on 15th NW. Ballard real estate is in a frenzy of parcel splitting, akin to the heady days of Microsoft stock splits, but without any dividends for struggling local non-profits.
“Thank goodness for Larry Phillips,” Carlye said. Because of the King County Councilman’s support the Ballard Senior Center receives some King County funding. So at least the rising property taxes that price seniors out of their Ballard homes helps keep the center a place where they can play bridge, meet with a social worker and have a hot lunch. Will the new owners of Lockhaven Apartments pay more property taxes, in keeping with rent increases that have forced almost all the residents to make plans to vacate?
The volunteers at the Senior Center work as hard as anyone under 60 and doing manual labor. Prepartion for three rummage sales per year never stops. The Center’s tables are constantly being moved, even between floors, to accommodate overflow meals, the holiday bazaar, community meetings...
The upstairs hall is always lined with rummage sale donations, but even without those obstructions the doorways are barely wide enough for a motorized wheelchair. The door to the Crafts Room where I hold weekly writing classes is perhaps one inch wider than my student’s wheelchair. It requires robotic precision to enter: although people with Multiple Sclerosis don’t always have robotic precision.
Luckily Carlye Teel never gives up, worrying over all of her people, as though they are all related. She doesn’t walk away, despite receiving less funding every year while watching Ballard become more affluent and seniors less so. Somehow she manages to recharge herself, seeing the popularity of Boon Goh’s photography class, the turnout for events, new faces, the generosity of many businesses and organizations like Ballard Swedish.
I’ll figure it out, she always says. Through December 22nd their lunchroom is open for business as a holiday bazaar, filled with crafts. On December 7th they’ll have the pancake breakfast and Santa photos. They hope local families pour into the center. On December 10th there’s a special performance of Taproot Theatre’s Le Club Noel, with tickets only available through the Senior Center.
The holidays get called the season of giving, but Carlye Teel, her small staff, volunteers and members give big every day. I would like to see the community give back, because surely someone in Ballard is making money. But where is the money going?
Ballard Senior Center Santa Breakfast. Saturday, December 7, 9 am-1pm. $5.00 adults/ $3.00 under ten. Call 206.297.0403 to reserve a Santa photo time. Reservations not needed for breakfast. 5429 NW Market Street. www.ballardseniorcenter.org