Peninsula Volunteer CEO/Executive Director Peter Olson leads the organization past its 70-year mark

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on November 6, 2017

Seventy years ago, a group of forward-thinking local women started an organization, Peninsula Volunteers, that not only endures but thrives today.

“This organization has always been at the forefront of something,” says Peter Olson, CEO/Executive Director for the past year. “Little House, established in 1949, was the first suburban senior center in the United States; the PVs were the first volunteer organization in the U.S. to build affordable senior housing.”

With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, Peter notes that the needs and desires of the aging population are changing. “Older seniors [those 85+] tend to hold on to what we think of as typical senior activities, such as programs for people who find themselves isolated due to the loss of a spouse, the kids moving away, those kinds of things.

“While the younger seniors are looking for opportunities for fitness and education. We sell memberships, like REI [the store], although someone doesn’t need to be a member to take part in the activities at Little House.”

One upcoming activity is a complimentary lunch for all veterans on Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 10 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at Little House (800 Middle Ave.). Non-military guests are asked to pay a $10 donation for lunch. Ceremonial remarks by Supervisor Warren Slocum will begin at noon, with a presentation by the Boy Scouts of America and a musical performance by the Menlo-Atherton Choir members.

One challenge for the organization, Peter cites, is funding. “Raising funds for senior services is difficult, possibly more so in this area, where there is less perceived need. But our Meals on Wheels program is delivering food to homebound seniors in Menlo Park and Atherton. There are people here choosing between eating, paying the rent and buying their prescription drugs.

“Adult day services program at Rosener House costs participants a fraction of what residential care cost would be. Yet, we are always seeking scholarships so that people can take part in the activities there.

“People give to pets, people give to what’s happening on the other side of the world, but supporting senior programs is not top of mind.”

Peter cites the need for both monetary donations and volunteers to deliver food through the Meals on Wheels program. “We are a local non-profit that takes care of the growing needs of an aging population right here in our community.”

Photo by Irene Searles (c) 2017

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