Omar Romero was bagging up groceries at the Centro Latino de San Francisco Community Center when he paused his work to sit down and tell us the story of one of his clients, a 70-year-old woman from his home country of El Salvador.
She is one of the 570 participants who have collected food boxes Monday through Saturday at the Center on 15th Street.
“This past year has been really hard,” said Romero as he sat in a now-empty computer classroom, where elderly and disabled participants once took computer literacy classes.
That was pre-pandemic, when the Centro Latino de San Francisco was a lively community center where residents created art, learned how to use computers, took chorus classes, and learned about nutrition.
Romero, 37, is the site and nutrition manager, and his job is to give away food to seniors and those with disabilities, as well as to teach courses on nutrition. During the pandemic, that means handing out boxes as well as dropping them off for those unable to leave their homes.
One of the people he visits is a 70-year-old woman who, before the pandemic, “would be there for every class,” he said in Spanish, and attend the monthly communal party to celebrate birthdays.
Nowadays, when Romero drops off fruits and vegetables and checks in on her, the senior thinks she is still going to the Centro Latino for her art and exercise classes. Romero has to remind her that, no, “we come to see you, you have not been with us.”
She was once sharp and present, but isolation has had its impact.
“She is not the same person she was before — she doesn’t have the same stable personality,” Romero said, his voice dropping low at the memory.
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