‘A wonderful place to…just hang out’

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When Ed Balcourt was 85, his son, Barry, took him to the Port Washington Senior Center to register for a membership, he said.

At first, Balcourt said, he didn’t want to be there because he didn’t want to hang out with older people.

“When we got there, I didn’t like it,” Balcourt said. “Then, after sitting and talking with some of the other seniors, it became a place that I love going to.”

The Port Washington Senior Center, located at 80 Manorhaven Blvd., was founded in 1961 as a social club for seniors. 

It now offers seniors a full week of activities that include yoga, day trips and socializing.

“This center is such a wonderful place for all of the seniors to come and just hang out and socialize,” said Delores Holliday, the center’s executive director, who has worked at the center for 31 years.

During the week, seniors arrive at the center at 9 a.m., some driven, others by a bus that shuttles them from their homes to the center.

 After they pay for their daily lunch, they sit and relax at round tables, talking to their friends or playing cards.

“It’s really great here,” Delores Messina said. “You come in and sit down with your friends and play cards and chat. Once you’re here, you just forget about everything outside. It’s perfect.”

After the seniors finish their coffee, some participate in exercise classes, said Dorothy Quinn, the center’s programming director.

“We offer a lot of different classes for the seniors,” Quinn said. “During the week, we’ll have Zumba, yoga, tai chi and more. We also having painting and sewing classes people can take part in. There’s something for everyone.”

Although many seniors come to participate in the activities and exercise classes, Quinn said, many seniors come to socialize and have conversations.

“It’s about the friendships they make and the experience that they have when they come here,” said Warren Schien, the center’s president.

Schien said the staff’s goal is to make everyone happy and make them feel like they belong at the center.

“Everyone is so nice and they treat us so nicely,” Janet Buda said. “They really know how to treat the older folks.”

Seniors who pay for lunch are provided with a fresh-cooked meal from the center’s two chefs, Schien said. 

“Every day they eat a nice home-cooked meal, and it’s always something good and something different,” he said.

A couple of times a month, seniors get together and make quilts for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, which provides them to service members and veterans, Quinn said. They also work together to knit baby blankets and lap blankets for children’s hospitals, she added.

“They really love knitting and sewing,” Quinn said. “Everyone really cares and wants to make blankets for the children’s hospital.”

Last week, the center took seniors by boat to City Island for a lobster dinner — just one of the many trips they go on. 

On Wednesday, Quinn said, they  took a trip to Foxwoods casino and on Oct. 14, the seniors are going to a restaurant in Franklin Square for Oktoberfest.

“It’s really good to get everyone out and on these trips,” she said. “Everyone really loves them and they all have such a great time.”

During the week, the seniors have so much fun, Quinn said, that one senior said on the weekend, there is no place to go and nothing to do.

“It’s even a great place for the staff,” Holliday said. “I love just sitting around with the seniors and listening to their stories. It’s that and the love of the seniors that has kept me here.”

By Stephen Romano

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