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Adapting and resilient Greenwich House continues to serve seniors

Our Lady of Pompeii offers plenty of distancing space while the Blues Band performs.
(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

As New York creeps toward normalcy, Greenwich House (GH) continues to provide a multitude of services for seniors, creatively adapting to the new normal. 

The on-site lunch program, which had been suspended in March 2020, restarted in July with take-out lunches provided at all the GH centers—Judith White (Barrow Street), Our Lady of Pompeii (OLP), Independence Plaza, and 20 Washington Square North (WSN). Sit-down lunches can be had in all but Judith White.  

People like the option, GH staff discovered, to drop in, pick up their lunch, or stop to meet and eat with a few friends — at this point, it’s two to a table.

“It’s better than the timed seatings,” said Laura Marceca, director at Washington Square North.

Lunches are served there from 12 to 2 p.m.

 “We wrote a proposal (for the new budget cycle of Department of Aging) in order that older adults could ‘drop-in’ at any time during lunch serving hours and additionally, the proposal includes breakfast at OLP and dinner at WSN,” Marceca said.  

During a GH evening of music and theatre, the audience is taken through a few physical moves.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Blues Band Jon Thomas and the Firm Roots! provides an evening of music to GH members.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Regarding classes

Before the pandemic, there were 40-50 classes. Now, across all the centers, there are 30 on Zoom, 12 in-person and a number that are hybrid. 

Classes range from the nationally recognized comedy class (closed, but they’re adding a new session), Shakespeare, film discussion with a film viewing link, opera, art history, French, Italian, creative writing and a theatre workshop (a form of art, activism and community engagement.) 

Hands-on arts classes include Chinese painting, book making, jewelry, and an open studio workshop. 

There are 18 classes of physical activity — in-person,  Zoom or hybrid that include many yoga classes, tai chi, and ballet (Ballet Trocedero).   

Two of these classes are being held outdoors in Washington Square Park — Movement at Garibaldi Plaza, Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. and tai chi at noon on Fridays across from Holley statue.

Yvette Elkaim, GH member and master knitter engages with Exec. Director Darren Bloch.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Artists find inspiration in many resources.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

New directions

Just three months before COVID changed everything in March 2020, new CEO and Executive Director Darren Bloch joined Greenwich House leadership. With a strong background in public service and many contacts, he faced the challenges undaunted.  

“There was so much to navigate,” he says.

His concerns were primarily to keep safe peers and neighbors served, as well as ensuring continuity of services including mental health counseling and social engagement. The new director is looking forward to when more on-site in-person activities take place.

Bloch reports how the Department of Aging accepted Greenwich House’s expanded proposal for support of its senior center sites and services. 

Among some new plans in the works will be the addition of an Older Adult Center at Westbeth to join the Greenwich House campus. The Westbeth site will offer lunches on Tuesdays through Saturdays and will also focus on social services.  Greenwich House is looking for a director for this site (its job offering is listed on their website). 

Part of GH’s proposal adds new programming options across the network of sites. Within a slightly new structure, GH senior centers’ locales will have specialties. 

The Barrow Street location will continue to have senior health and consultation on the third floor.  On the fourth floor there will be an intergenerational business program with access to culinary arts including cooking classes, technology and business related classes. The resource room will be the main focus, like a mini-Staples, where people can shred, copy, fax, and scan. “There’s a demand for that,” Marceca says. “We’ll have computers and a staff person to help.” 

Our Lady of Pompeii, with its large open expanse, will feature physical activities and health and wellness and Washington Square North will offer arts-related classes. 

The development and finalizing of budget details with Department of Aging are in the works. 

Meanwhile, Marceca summed up the aim of the future plan,.

“The whole point of the network is to collaborate with as many local partners as we can—more classes in Washington Square Park, more art classes from University Settlement’s Creativity Center,” Marceca said. “The goal is to collaborate.”

Inspired by a print, Zabel Meshejian works on her painting in the Open Studio class.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Al Di Raffaele, retired graphic artist, enjoys expressive opportunities the Open Art Studio offers him.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Paints and colored pencils, the tools of artistic expression.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Roy is taking students through their ballet paces.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The tai chi communes in Washington Square Park.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

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