2018 eruption dampens use of Pahoa Senior Center

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Pahoa Senior Center

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald From left, Jeanne Maas, Rose Soto and John Perkins work on their projects Thursday during feather lei class at Pahoa Senior Center. The class meets Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Another feather lei class also meets Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon a Keaau Senior Center.

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald From left, instructor Robert Beebe and Linda Miles work on their projects Thursday during feather lei class at Pahoa Senior Center. The class meets Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Another feather lei class also meets Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon a Keaau Senior Center.

Closed for about three months during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano in lower Puna, the Pahoa Senior Center has since reopened and continues to offer classes for kupuna in the community.

But Adam Sydney, who teaches two classes there, said some people might not be aware of what’s offered at the center, located at 15-3016 Kauhale St., near the Pahoa District Park.


Sydney, who also teaches at the Kamana and Pomaikai senior centers in Hilo, said, “I have a lot of people that live down here but are driving to Hilo for the same class I teach here because they didn’t know.”

Kamana, for instance, has always been open, with a full and active schedule, he said, but it’s not the same in Pahoa.

“I don’t know what was happening here before I started to teach here, before the eruption … but people I talk to don’t know anything’s going on here.”

That’s a shame, said Sydney, because “there’s a lot of stuff going on here and not a lot of students.”

But the center does attract participants from other areas.

The three participants of Sydney’s film appreciation class, “all come here from different places to come here for class,” said Jim Carr of Hawaiian Acres.

Carr didn’t know about the senior center until he learned about the class.

Joining Carr after class on a recent afternoon was Dee Richardson from Hawaiian Paradise Park and Liz Peck, who makes the trek from Hilo.

Peck said when she found out the film class was being offered in Pahoa, “I ran down here, because I love it.”

During the eruption, “we were more concerned about the people in Puna,” Richardson said. “I guess we didn’t think too much about the opening. We’re just glad it opened when it did.”

Robert Beebe, who teaches a feather lei class in Pahoa and also teaches in Keaau, said while there is a smaller, steady group in Pahoa, “I suspect we will gain a few more as people who were affected by volcanic activity get their lives back in order.”

Since the eruption, his class size has remained about the same, but he picked up three new students in addition to two who returned.

“We in the feather lei group have not suffered,” he said.

Iris Higa, program director for the county’s Elderly Recreation Services, said the center closed down twice during the past seven years she has worked for the county.

“It has put a damper on our senior classes, our senior programming that runs there,” she said. “It definitely made it difficult for people to know that there’s classes offered.”

Because of the lava flows, a lot of people were displaced, but Higa said “over time, (we) know seniors will start coming back” to the center.

The ultimate goal is to make sure seniors have opportunities for physical, social and emotional well-being.

“Whatever way we can keep seniors healthy and active is more or less what we strive to do,” Higa said.

The summer session at Pahoa Senior Center begins July 8 and continues through Sept. 13.

Yoga classes will be 12:30-1:30 p.m. Mondays, and ceramics class is 10 a.m.-noon Tuesdays.

Four classes are offered Wednesdays: chair yoga from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m., creative writing from 12:30-1:30 p.m., film appreciation from 2-4:30 p.m. and hula from 5-6:30 p.m.

Feather lei making is 8 a.m.-noon, and line dancing is 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

On Friday, beginner ukulele is from 11 a.m.-noon, and intermediate ukulele is from noon-1 p.m., while beginner line dancing is 12:30-1:30 p.m., and intermediate line dancing is 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Classes are $10 for 1- to 2-hour classes and $20 for 2- to 3-hour classes.

Tai chi will be offered from 10-11 a.m. Mondays at the Pahoa Community Center.

For more information, call 966-5801 or 965-2705.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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