Howard Beach seniors have reason to smile again

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Sharon Goldfarb (left) and seniors at the temporary Howard Beach Senior Center in Father Dooley Hall of St. Helen’s School.THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen
Sharon Goldfarb (left) and seniors at the temporary Howard Beach Senior Center in Father Dooley Hall of St. Helen’s School.

Sharon Goldfarb was sitting with some fellow members of the Howard Beach Senior Center on a recent morning, discussing the condition of their homes and how the recovery process was going.

Their temporary center reopened December 3 at Father Dooley Hall at St. Helen’s School in Lindenwood. Its original location was just across the street in the lower level of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

When the area started to flood during Sandy, however, much of the center was damaged, along with scores of files and other items. Goldfarb said as regular center members start coming to the temporary facility, life starts to return to normal and they can begin moving forward. “The people are feeling much better,” she said. “Slowly but surely it’s doing better.”

“We’re doing baby steps,” said Judy Ascherman, the center’s assistant director. “We’re working on improving.”

The State Department of the Aging said seniors could not return to the center in its current condition, Ascherman said.

But that hasn’t stopped the staff from getting things back up and running. Monsignor Alfred LoPinto told the staff they could use the school’s gymnasium as long as needed.

The staff members, elected officials and leaders at St. Helen’s worked together to return at least some services to the area’s seniors.

Members and non-members alike can use the new facility, open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone more than 60 years old can enjoy lunch once again, Ascherman said.

“We’re not limiting it to members,” she said. “Because there are people in the community who need us.”

The number of people coming in has not been as high as usual, something Ascherman expects to pick up as the center is able to function completely again.

On Tuesday, December 11, the center’s Chanukah/Christmas party, scheduled before the storm hit, featured dancing and a DJ. The party, among other small things, has been just one way Ascherman said will help get the seniors back on their feet and have something to smile about.

“We need to be happy about something,” she said.

Dolores Tavernese said now that the center has been open for more than a week, and recovery slowly picks up, more people will start coming back.

“They’re just coming out of it,” she said.