Adaptation and Resilience Greenwich House Continues to Serve Seniors

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As New York City moves closer to normal, Greenwich House (GH) continues to provide a host of services to the elderly, creatively adapting to the new normal.

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

People like the option, the GH staff found, to drop by, have their lunch or stop to meet and eat with a few friends – at this point it’s two at a table.

“It’s better than timed seats,” said Laura Marceca, manager of Washington Square North.

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

“We have drafted a proposal (for the new budget cycle of the Ministry of Aging) so that the elderly can ‘show up’ at any time during lunch service hours and, in addition, the proposal includes breakfast at the PLO and dinner at the WSN, ”Marceca mentioned.

During a GH evening of music and theater, the public is required to perform some physical movements.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The blues band Jon Thomas and the firm roots! offers an evening of music to GH members.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

About the courses

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

Classes range from Nationally Recognized Comedy Class (closed, but they’re adding a new session), Shakespeare, Movie Talk with a movie viewing link, Opera, Art History, French, Italian , creative writing and a theater workshop (an art form, activism and community engagement.)

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

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

Two of these classes are held outdoors in Washington Square Park – Movement at Garibaldi Plaza, Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. and Tai Chi at noon on Fridays in front of Statue of Holley.

Yvette Elkaim, member of GH and master knitter engages with Exec. Director Darren Bloch.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Artists find their 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 has joined the management of Greenwich House. With a solid experience in the public service and numerous contacts, he took up the challenges without being discouraged.

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

His concerns were mainly to ensure the safety of his peers and neighbors, as well as to ensure the continuity of services, including mental health counseling and social engagement. The new manager looks forward to when more in-person on-site activities take place.

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

Among the new projects underway will be the addition of a senior center in Westbeth to join the Greenwich House campus. The Westbeth site will offer lunches Tuesday through Saturday and will also focus on social services. Greenwich House is looking for a Manager for this site (his job posting is listed on their website).

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

The Barrow Street location will continue to provide health and counseling services to seniors on the third floor. On the fourth floor, there will be an intergenerational business program with access to the culinary arts, including cooking, technology, and business-related classes. The resource room will be the primary focus, like a mini-Staples, where people can shred, copy, fax, and scan. “There is a demand for it,” says Marceca. “We will have computers and a staff member to help us. ”

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

The development and finalization of budget details with the Department of Aging is underway.

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

“The goal of the network is to collaborate with as many local partners as possible: more classes in Washington Square Park, more art classes at the Creativity Center at University Settlement,” Marceca said. “The goal is to collaborate.

Inspired by a print, Zabel Meshejian works her painting in the Open Studio class.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Al Di Raffaele, retired graphic designer, enjoys the expressive opportunities offered by the Open Art Studio.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Paints and colored pencils, tools of artistic expression.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Roy takes the students through their ballet rhythms.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The Tai Chi Commons in Washington Square Park.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)


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