Sunset Park seniors return to their home away from home

The United Senior Citizens Center of Sunset Park reopened itsdoors on Monday, September 26, after a year of being closed forelevator repairs, and the seniors couldn’t be more thrilled to havetheir center – and friends – back.

I’m very happy. We all know each other and we feel comfortablehere, said Marcelino Cruz, 53, who has been attending the centerfor five years, drawn by the games of dominos, cards and Bingoplayed with his social network. There’s new ping pong tables,too!

I belong to the one on 45th Street [Marien Heim Senior Center],but the people that play dominos come here, said Lucy Acevedo, 79,while watching her domino opponents lay down their tiles. Herfriend, Maria Salame, 58, agreed, noting that she comes every dayfor the bingo and donuts.

The senior center, located on the third floor at 475 53rdStreet, just a short walk from subway and bus stops as well aslocal merchants, serves a hot meal to 150 seniors every day – up to300 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, when Bingo is played. Thereare also the other games like dominos and Scrabble, plus sometreadmills and stationary bikes for exercise, and newly added pingpong and billiards tables.

The center also offers regular ESL classes, arts and craftsdays, and nutrition classes, and some residents, like 65-year-oldCarmen Diaz, noted that they hope to have more exercise programslike rhumba and dancing – stuff where you can move your body -now that they’ve reopened.

I exercise here. I dance here. I was looking for a boyfriend,but I didn’t find any, joked 13-year participant Carmen Pinero,who declined to divulge her age. This is the best place we havearound here.

On this day, Pinero was sitting next to her walker outside themain office, reminding her fellow seniors to sign up before goingin to see the social worker. She is just one of the manyvolunteers, such as Olga Jimenez, who enjoy supporting SunsetPark’s senior community.

I used to volunteer and now I’ve been here four weeks, saidJimenez, who is now the part-time assistant for the center’sdirector, Grisel Amador. I joined for Grisel, the seniors andbecause I know the community well. The seniors know me and I wantedto come here and help out.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony to reopen the center officially willbe held this Friday, October 7. Members of the Department for theAging have been invited, and other attendees will includeCouncilmember Sara Gonzalez, who helped secure the funding for theelevator and other repairs.

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