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Seniors Get A Step Up With New Walking Sticks

April 7, 2009 — Walking got a little easier — and a little classier — for 11 seniors who spend their days at George Simmons Terrace senior center, thanks to a donation of hand-crafted walking sticks by Al Smith.
"This will replace my old cane. It has a nice grip and nice everything. It feels more steady too," senior Alice O'Connor said.
Pedro Ramos has a bad knee that makes it hard for him to walk up hills. But he expects an easier time of it thanks to his new walking stick.
"It feels comfortable," he said.
And Henry Jackson said he plans to alternate using the stick he has with his new one.
Smith gave the seniors their walking sticks in a brief ceremony Monday at the senior center.
Smith spends his days working at the Cruz Bay post office, but for most of his adult life has moonlighted as one of St. John's premier woodworkers. When he hurt his back on the job in 2005, he needed to use a walking stick to get around.
After making a pair for himself, he soon began turning them out on his lathe for seniors around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. All of them, including the ones he gave to the George Simmons seniors, are donated.
"Anyone needs one, I'm willing," he said.
The walking sticks are made of mahogany and genip woods with brass handles. Smith said each one takes about 1 1/2 hours to make.
He said he expects them to last the life of the seniors, but noted that the rubber tips will probably need to be replaced. When that need arises, he said the seniors should contact him for replacements.
They're made to individually fit the height of each senior.
He seemed a bit surprised when asked why he made them for the seniors.
"They paved the road," he said — paving the way for the generations that followed.
While the seniors might have it a bit easier walking, they won't be riding in a senior bus. Center Director Abigail Hendricks said that the promised bus hasn't yet materialized.
After 20 seniors attended an open house held Jan. 29 at the Battery to ask government officials when the bus was going to arrive, Gov. John deJongh Jr. Feb. 3 sent out a press release announcing that they'd have their bus by the end of February.
Without the bus, Hendricks said that seniors must spend their days at the center instead of going on outings. She said the center depends on VITRAN and Dial-A-Ride to transport the seniors to the center, but the center needs its own bus.
St. John Administrator Leona Smith said the bus is still "on order."
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