Students from St. John’s University did much more than revitalize the recreational space at Catholic Charities Peter J. Dellamonica Senior Center – they rejuvenated the spirits of the facility’s visitors.
Ten undergraduates visited the senior center, located at 23-56 Broadway in Astoria, on September 24 as part of St. John’s University’s 10th Annual University Service Day. In addition to cleaning and performing general tasks, the students added vibrancy to the facility by painting the computer lab and its adjacent hallway red and white.
“I’m happy with the paint job, because in this economic crisis, this is something that I wouldn’t have been able to afford,” said Ayana Rush, project director of older adult services for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens. “It proved to be a successful project. We livened up the place by adding some color, and the room now has a contemporary, SoHo feel. As a project director, I got to see a space actually mirror the warmth and caring of the programs we provide.”
Along with invigorating the center, the students also interacted with the seniors, creating a unique dynamic between youthful exuberance and seasoned wisdom.
“This is an intergenerational opportunity for seniors to be around young people, and for young people to learn about older adults,” Rush said. “It is a learning opportunity for both generations, and it is nice that they got to come together. The energy the students brought was refreshing, and they definitely energized the seniors.”
St. John’s students also visited eight other Catholic Charities sites across Brooklyn and Queens on September 24, including the Pete McGuiness Senior Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
“It is important for us as a university to recognize those most in need,” said Angela Seegel, the service site coordinator for St. John’s University Service Day. “Our students recognize that those most in need are part of our community. It is our responsibility to serve them. The great thing about this day is that it happens at the beginning of our school year, so it becomes a spring board for the whole year. It tells the students that service to those most in need is a necessary and essential component of their education. Service day creates an environment that it is not us or them, it is we.”
The senior centers act as piazzas for older adults, and provide them with locations to participate in numerous multicultural activities, such as tai chi, yoga, salsa dancing and art classes.
Rush says that the collegians have already contacted her about volunteering additional time at the center, and she believes the experience proved mutually beneficial for the students and seniors.
“For my seniors, they got to see that older adults are not forgotten about, that people are concerned about them and more importantly, they got a makeover that’s well deserved,” she said. “Seniors also felt that the students were invested in their center, and that they cared about them enough to volunteer their time. The students reported feeling happy to provide the service, and they were happy to engage in conversations with the seniors. Overall it was a social investment for both my older adults and the students.”