Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine: omaha.com/wedontcoast. Photo by Michael Batchelder

It is a melting pot of benefit; an organization that celebrates our diversity, values our elderly and underscores the difference one committed person can make.

Carolina Padilla founded the Intercultural Senior Center in 2009 to create a community for and serve the needs of our seniors, bringing together Latinos, Asians and African refugees, and native English speakers.

Programming at the south Omaha center includes daily exercise classes and field trips, social services, and English, computer literacy and citizenship classes. It also offers transportation, meals and a monthly food pantry.

“As the aging community grows, our goal is to become a one-stop shop for high-quality services. We welcome every senior who needs any type of support to increase wellness and decrease isolation,” says Padilla, a native of Guatemala who started the organization as a way of paying it forward. Just 6 years old when her mother died, she was raised by her aunts.

“I left without giving back for what they did for me,” she says, “I felt like I owed something to someone else. For some reason, I just feel an attachment to older people.”

With its vibrant mix of programming, attendance at the center has been growing steadily. At first, only a few people showed up each day. Between 60 and 90 now come regularly.

“Making a change in a senior’s life is not a job, it is a blessing,” Padilla says. “We’re a big family.”