Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senior Center Staying Alive

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senior Center Staying Alive

Article excerpt

ENGLEWOOD -- Members of the South East Senior Center for Independent Living are quick to boast that the facility is not like any other.

"I brag about it," Englewood resident Kathy Rebek said. "This place is a gift."

Rebek first visited the center three years ago when she turned 65 and needed help figuring out what medical insurance she could afford on a fixed income.

The center's social worker called in an insurance representative to sit down and go over the various plans, and Rebek has been coming back ever since.

Her husband took advantage of the low-cost dental when he needed new dentures recently, saving about $900. She has also visited the podiatrist and the dentist herself and regularly attends stretch and flex, one of the many fitness classes.

Rebek has made friends through the center and has come to rely on the medical services. "I feel secure knowing that they're here," she said.

The center was founded in 1978 by 11 municipalities in southeast Bergen County that pooled their federal grants. It was administered by the county until it became an independently run non-profit 20 years ago.

More than 1,700 Bergen County residents 55 and older took advantage of its programs last year. There are writing sessions, conversational foreign language discussions, chair yoga and chi kung, and a nurse is on hand to answer medical questions.

Program Coordinator Cornelia Williams said area doctors present guest lectures, the Bergen County Sheriff's Office gives a talk on identity theft and the Bergen County surrogate presents information on wills and probates.

The center, housed in the historic 1800s stone Lydecker Homestead on Grand Avenue, has relied on Community Development Block Grant funding distributed to the founding municipalities through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Executive Director Ed Barsuk said those funds are dwindling and the center receives $50,000 to $60,000 less than it used to. So it cut back on hours and staff and relies heavily on volunteers. And, for the first time, it required its members, many of whom are on fixed income, to pay a $10 annual fee for what were previously free programs.

In the past, Barsuk said, they have mailed out letters seeking donations and organized raffles. But this year the center is hosting its first fund-raising gala May 23 at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack. In addition to raising funds -- tickets are selling for $125 -- the event will honor state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D- Teaneck, and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assemblywoman Valerie Vanieri Huttle, both D-Englewood, for their support, in addition to two founding board members, Mary Hirschman and Herb Erman.

Now, the members who have grown to love the center's programs are doing what they can to help plan and promote the gala.

"We need as much funding as we can get, because this is a wonderful service to the community," Rebek said. …

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