Senior center supplies hot lunch, social activities
Michael Petrillo gives his friend Tony Nocella an impromptu massage at the Merchantville Community Center's senior citizen lunch.
Population age 65+|
Source: 1990, 2000 Census
Thursday, May 22, 2003
By KAREN KENNEDY-HALL
Joe Massimilla said his friends and family complain he's never at home when they try to reach him.
The 78-year-old retired bookbinder bowls, takes day trips, plays cards, goes out dancing and belongs to a gym and seven senior citizen clubs.
On most weekday mornings, though, around 11:30, friends and family can find Massimilla and about 80 other senior citizens from Merchantville and all over Camden County at the Merchantville Community Center on Greenleigh Court where they enjoy a hot lunch and socialize.
"They're all friendly here. We have a lot of fun." said Massimilla, a widower.
The Merchantville program is one of 11 sites of the federally funded Camden County Nutrition Project that is administered by the Salvation Army in Camden.
It offers county seniors over age 60 a hot meal for a $1.25 donation and social activities, said program director Joyce Nelson.
"But no one is turned away," said Nelson, who has been director since the program started in Camden in 1972.
California transplant Kay Della Penna, 65, of Williamstown manages the Merchantville site that is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
She said after the 12:30 p.m. lunch is served, participants play Bingo, card and board games, pool and shuffleboard and, once a month, there are day trips to shows or the casinos.
"I absolutely love it. I never had anything to do with seniors or this type of work," said Della Penna, who was a former model and owned two travel agencies in California before moving East a year ago.
Della Penna said many of the senior citizens help to run the center by volunteering their time.
One of those volunteers is Mary Lue McCoog, 68, of Maple Shade. She helps to serve the food and gets Bingo prizes, pitching in where needed.
"There's a lot to do here," McCoog said. "That's why I come every day."
Dorothy Angeloff of Cherry Hill said she has made great friends at the center.
A widow, she started going to the center about 10 years ago to socialize.
"It really lifted my spirits," said Angeloff, 78, who is a retired science teacher with a masters degree in biology, chemistry and education.
Nelson said the Merchantville program started in 1975 and moved to its current location in 1990.
Although the borough doesn't contribute to the nutrition program it has been providing transportation for its residents through the Senior Citizens United Community Services Sen-Han Transit system for about six years.
"It's an allocation of one of our resources that's kind of important to us," said Mayor Patrick Brennan.
The borough pays $6,400 a year and in 2002 the transit bus provided 1,600 rides to Merchantville residents.
"They're definitely one of the towns that is very supportive of their senior population and that was one piece they didn't have, so we began working them," said Donna Kovalevich, executive director of Sen-Han.
Reach Karen Kennedy-Hall at (856) 317-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org