Kaleb and I flew from Indianapolis to Orlando, FL to begin filming what I had already scouted and researched a couple of weeks earlier. I had booked my trip back to Orlando through Expedia.com and was able to get a great deal on hotel and airfare through Expedia's package deals. I ended up booking Kaleb and me at The Peabody Hotel across the street from the convention center. It was a complete departure from what I just experienced in Booneville, KY. Now, before anyone goes off and starts asking me about staying at The Peabody while I am asking for money for the documentary please note this was paid for by the executive producers and we got a REALLY great deal at this hotel and it was incredibly cost effective. In fact, my flight and hotel expense was just a little more expensive than what the costs were in Booneville. But, as I have said many times, the costs of this entire documentary add up and can be expensive when trying to tell the accurate story of Senior Hunger in America. Anyway, when we got to the hotel we were fortunate enough to be put in a suite (thanks to the help of the great people at Seniors First) on the 22nd floor of this massive hotel. Again, this was a welcomed relief after roughing it in Kentucky for the last several days. Yes, I'm spoiled. I like my little luxuries like a 7-11 close by, more than 3 restaurant choices serving fried, deep friend and deep fried on a stick food and I like being able to have cell reception and instant email. I will be the first to admit that I am completely, hopelessly and shamefully addicted to email. As you can see from the pictures below we were in a REALLY sweet hotel with a wonderful view of downtown Orlando and one of the many pool areas. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to stay at this hotel.
- We were in building #2 of this massive hotel. In front of us is building #3. The Peabody is an unbelievably classy hotel and organization.
- Here's the view of downtown Orlando from our 22nd floor balcony.
- Here's the view from our balcony overlooking one the many pools at the hotel.
NEIGHBORHOOD LUNCH PROGRAM
The following morning we were meeting Lisa and Jan at the west-side office of Seniors First, getting some interviews and video here and then making our way to the Engelwood Community Center where their Neighborhood Lunch Program takes place. As I mentioned before, I want to show different elements of senior hunger in this film and not just people delivering food to seniors. Let's face it, 20 minutes of seeing people delivering food will get old very quickly to the viewer of this movie. And, seniors have so many more needs than just food. One of the most critical elements to anyone's well-being is social interaction. We are all social creatures and having that time to connect with other humans is something we often take for granted but are reminded as to how precious that interaction is when left alone - sometimes for days. Seniors First does an incredible job of not only feeding seniors but working with city and county officials to provide a lunch program at a community or city center. The day we were coming was a special day too in that the community leader (Nilda) was having a post-Easter celebration with dancing, and a DJ and balloons and cake and the most wonderful chicken I have ever tasted. Did I mention that this location serves a large Hispanic community? One thing I have to mention here too (as to not polarize the people reading this blog or who watch this film) is most of the people you see at Engelwood hail from Cuba, or Puerto Rico and are very much here legally. I know the immigration issue is one that can polarize many people but these people are no different than any other red-blooded American who came to this country in search of a better life, pay taxes, worked for many years and are now enjoying life in a better environment than they once had and are close to their families.
A celebration so big they even had to bring in a DJ. I think I may be wrong but I could swear I heard him say, "Hey! Who rocks the party that rocks your body?" He even broke out some karaoke and gifted the crowd with a little Neil Diamond. All kidding aside - this guy was great!
We arrived at Engelwood and are immediately greeted by a bus dropping off passengers coming to the celebration. These are regular attendees but today was a little more special considering all the festivities taking place. As you can imagine, most arrived in their best attire ready to dance, socialize, laugh and enjoy some great food. I love that Seniors First makes it easy for their clients to utilize their services and enjoy time socializing with one another and still feeling like they matter and people genuinely care about one another. We started getting video of everyone and thankfully Seniors First took care of getting all the waivers and releases signed by the people attending. Personally, I believe people in attendance were happy to see Kaleb and me and were smiling and waving at his video camera and my still camera. I had no issue taking photos that day. Before lunch was served the DJ fired-up his laptop and began spinning the hits. It was great to see so many people dancing and one man even brought his own maracas. He only stopped playing his maracas whenever it was time to eat. You just had this feeling that he was happy to be there and loved being able to play his maracas with passion and finesse.
Kaleb getting some shots outside the Engelwood Neighborhood Lunch Program.
One of the great staff members who drives around picking up seniors and taking them to the different Community Lunch Programs
Time passed and we got some wonderful interviews with many of the people in attendance as well as the community leader, Nilda. But the one interview that stands out to me was when Tony (I forget his last name but he's in the documentary) a politician from the community and former Deputy Sheriff came to visit the celebration. He also agreed to be on camera and talk about how important something like this is for the community. He then started talking about how he got involved and shared a story about his mother who had special needs and relied upon services like the ones Seniors First provides. During that conversation he became choked up and started to cry and I could tell the true emotion and sincerity this man has for seniors. You know, I don't have a lot of love or positive thoughts towards our politicians these days but was reminded how great politicians CAN be when they truly care about being civil servants. I expressed my position and thoughts with Tony and thanked him for reminding me there are still some wonderful caring people working in politics to truly make a difference in this world and their communities. I also have to thank Lisa and Jan from Seniors First who really know how to work with the people in their communities to make a difference in the lives of seniors.
Tomorrow I will share our experience at the L. Claudia Allen Community Center where the African-American community and the Asian community share an great space. Until then, enjoy these pictures from our time at the Engelwood Neighborhood Lunch Program.
A great group of seniors dancing, laughing and enjoying life during this Easter celebration function.
I loved watching this woman move around the dance floor. She was vibrant and happy and could kick my ass in a dance competition.
Don't knock it 'til you've tried it... Meals on Wheels food is DAMN tasty!
Here are some of the people that made this day at Engelwood so special. The woman on the far left is Lisa from Seniors First, the woman in the middle behind the man's left shoulder is Nilda. the woman in blue and the woman on the far right are daughter and mother, respectively and the man in the middle is the one who helped to create a chicken masterpiece that day.
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