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Senior Center Faces Eviction

Brea day-care facility helps about 25 people daily. It needs a home quickly, but so far the hunt has been fruitless.

July 09, 2006|Kelly-Anne Suarez | Times Staff Writer

A senior day-care center in Brea that serves elderly people who are frail or who suffer from Alzheimer's or other neurological diseases must close its doors Saturday and has yet to find a new home.

It is the second time in nearly 18 months that the Easter Seals Senior Day Care Program has been forced to move. The program spent eight years in Brea's Pioneer Hall, until March 2005, when the city decided to renovate the premises and eventually chose to use the space for its own senior center.

The Easter Seals center, which is supported by the national Easter Seals nonprofit organization that assists people with disabilities, serves about 25 seniors in a refurbished, windowless warehouse on Atlas Street.

On June 23, the building's new owner sent the senior center an eviction notice -- hand-delivered by an Orange County sheriff's deputy. The center was given five days to leave. Through attorneys, both sides agreed to extend the grace period until July 15.

Attorneys for owner Dennis Curley did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The relatives of the seniors who benefit from the Brea center praised the assistance it provides and expressed dismay about the eviction.

"The staff at Easter Seals is so good, so caring," said Charmaine DeSimone, whose 85-year-old mother attends the senior center every weekday. "No matter where I take her, [it] will not be equal."

On Friday, a week before the deadline, the program's common room was filled with Frank Sinatra crooning on the stereo and cheers as men and women took turns pushing discs across a plastic shuffleboard. DeSimone's mother, Doris Dean, a mother of six, grandmother of 24 and great-grandmother of 32, smiled among them.

Dean suffers from dementia and, until recently, spent most of her time in front of the television, her daughter said.

"Now, she has a reason to wake up in the morning. She's happier, more active," said DeSimone, a special-ed elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and her mother in Diamond Bar.

She said she searched Los Angeles and Orange counties until she found the center in Brea. If it closes, she said, she would have to send Dean to live with another of her daughters.

About 25 seniors gather each weekday at the Easter Seals center between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to play miniature golf and racquetball, socialize and sharpen their minds with word games and chats about history or Americana. While they are being cared for, their children, spouses or caregivers can work or run errands without worrying about their loved ones, said Carol Wong, program director.

Wong said she and her colleagues have enlisted the help of six real estate agents and have spent nights and weekends scouring Brea and neighboring cities for potential new sites for the center. They found five candidates, but none worked out, she said, wiping away tears as she described the situation.

In some cases, the sites did not meet all of the center's needs -- a 3,000- to 4,000-square foot first floor with handicappedaccessible doors and bathrooms, a kitchen area and, ideally, a yard -- and in others it was a matter of "not in our backyard," Wong said

A bouquet sitting on the counter beside Wong came with an unsigned card that reads "Keep up the good work."

"We're going to try," Wong said.

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