To the Editor:
Recently The WIRE published articles about RISA, the Roosevelt Island Senior Association, and ignored the great goings on in our Senior Center at 546 Main Street. (RISA is a completely separate membership organization, not part of the Carter Burden Center, the Senior Center’s operator).
After a long-needed management intervention by DFTA (Department for the Aging) last spring, Carter Burden Center for the Aging, a well-respected Upper East Side and Harlem-based organization became the organization operating the Senior Center. Carter Burden operates six centers and eight other programs in Manhattan and has a distinguished reputation. It serves approximately 10,000 seniors in the City. The programs are funded by DFTA and private donations to their not-for-profit organization.
The programs are operated in a most professional manner. All programs at the center are now free and there is no membership required.
The wonderful staff are Director Lisa Fernandez; Hallie Shapiro, the outreach director who is also a gerontologist; and Yulisa Santos, the case worker. These three women are enthusiastic, skilled, knowledgeable, and engage with everyone entering the Center.
There is a vibrancy that starts with a great bulletin board, that shows all the activities and times, and is easy to see. The “Board” is so large that it takes up most of a wall in the main corridor.
There are many new services, along with some that were previously offered, including jewelry making, knitting, Scrabble, bridge, movies, assistance with insurance, yoga, salsa, seated exercise, and two art classes. Last week, the center hosted IDNYC enrollment. This was done in coordination with City Council Member Ben Kallos’ office. The center is bustling with activity all day and more events are being planned.
This year the center brought back the fresh fruit and vegetable program. For $8, you receive a bag of farm-fresh items from local farms. The program operates until late October and hopefully it will be back next year. While people pick up their produce, a selection of cookbooks are available free for the taking and suggested recipes and menus are available.
The center is actively working with other Island groups, including the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), The Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA), the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network (RIPN), and the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS).
The center has hosted its first clothing drive for disadvantaged children that engaged the RIPN. In collaboration with RIDA, they hosted an event celebrating the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they partnered with RIRA’s Youth Leadership Initiative on the Make It Count Dinner and a Show last week.
Lunch is served daily at noon for a suggested donation of $1.50. The money is placed in a box and no one knows what a person pays and who can afford the meals. The kitchen is not prepared to cook fresh meals yet, and hopefully soon renovations will be made so that pre-cooked catered meals will be eliminated. The other Carter Burden centers offer freshly cooked meals by their professional staff.
All those coming to programs in the center are encouraged to get a DFTA card. This card is bar-coded and scanned when you attend programs. An accurate count of those attending activities is kept and this affects funding the City provides.
One major improvement in the center is that it is spotlessly clean. A cleaning person is on site daily and she has made the place shine again. Renovations are planned to make the center more accessible and more attractive.
I am so thrilled that Carter Burden has come to serve our Island. They are proving that they are the best thing that has happened there in years. Come by and check out the programs and pick up a monthly schedule. There are so many additions that the schedule is constantly being updated. The Center is open 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. weekdays.
It is time for all Islanders aged 50+ to stop by the center and see the activities going on. The Senior Center welcomes volunteers to help with the programs. You will be welcomed by Lisa and her staff, and made to feel welcome.