Omaha’s Intercultural Senior Center (ISC) has received national accreditation for its work with a diverse elderly community.
It earned accreditation from the National Council on Aging’s National Institute on Senior Centers, becoming the first center in Nebraska to earn national recognition and one of over 200 accredited senior centers in the U.S., according to ISC.
The center was founded in 2009 by Executive Director Carolina Padilla. She worked at another nonprofit where she conducted a pilot program catered to grandmothers. For Padilla, the program ultimately highlighted the need for more services for seniors, especially from the Latino community.
The program initially catered mostly to Latinos, but over time, their resources expanded and began welcoming immigrants and refugees from Sudan, Nepal, Somalia, and other areas.
“It all started with a crazy idea of mine and I hoped one day we could grow and cater to more cultures and we’re doing that,” Padilla told 3 News Now.
ISC provides classes and programming dedicated to bettering the lives of seniors starting at age 50.
"We make sure that if they come with something, whether it’s their case, their concern, their worry - it’s taken care of. That's how we take care of our seniors,” said Padilla.
The center serves 1,500 individuals each month. The services are offered in seven different languages as they help people from over 20 countries.
The services include art and culture activities, health and wellness, community outings, fitness classes, language courses, case management, social work, and help in everyday activities like going to and from doctor's appointments.
“Within our programming, English as a second language is a very important class, as well as citizenship. A lot of seniors have been here for many, many years and never had the opportunity to become a citizen and it's a program that we offer to support that and make that dream a reality,” says Padilla.
ISC also provides door-to-door transportation by van to make it accessible for all visitors despite ability, income, or physical mobility. Ninety-five percent of them use that service, which is why Padilla is happy with their newest address since it’s centrally located for all groups.
She adds, “We have five different vehicles that go out every morning and they bring seniors many times. They do two trips - one in the mornings and two of them in the afternoon. So daily, we see over 100 seniors at ISC."
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, ISC had to pivot to protect its most vulnerable. It closed its doors but kept its services and even added a food pantry.
During the pandemic, the center had over 2,000 clients that were receiving food pantries, prepared meals, and hygiene items. Most of it was delivered to seniors’ homes to avoid direct contact.
On May 1, the center reopened and became a vaccination site. Padilla says nearly 98% of seniors who regularly visit ISC got their vaccine there.
“They really wanted to come back to ISC,” said Padilla. “We really noticed a lot of the isolation that was happening because they couldn't come anymore and for many of them, this is home. They call ISC my home, my second home."
The nonprofit is growing and is currently hiring for a few positions. You can find them here.