Tag Archives: JSPOA

The good, the better and the bad in Queens


| editorial@queenscourier.com


THE GOOD . . .

Queens came out in force on Memorial Day to pay tribute to those heroes who have fought – and continue to fight – for the freedoms we enjoy.

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, freedom is not, in fact, free, and the men and women in uniform – from our Armed Services to the NYPD and FDNY – fight every day to preserve and protect our liberties.

So it is with great pride that we say “thank you,” and are glad to have seen the patriotic displays this Memorial Day.

But let us also remember the other 364 days in the year in which to be grateful for our veterans.

 

THE BETTER . . .

Score one for the community coming together.

It was a long-fought and hard-won battle, but a Flushing Key Food will NOT be replaced by yet another pharmacy.

We say congratulations because, by coming together, the community was able to affect change.

Residents opposed the change, especially since the area has several pharmacies, including one across the street from the supermarket, but the store owner felt pressured to leave the property.

Rallies ensued, and the owner, politicians and even the locals sent a clear message – “keep our Key Food.”

We’re glad to say their message has been received.

 

THE BAD . . .

Seniors deserve respect.

The Friendship Center of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) is just one of many facing cuts as part of the city’s budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year, which, if not restored, will phase out programs for members — many of whom are mentally and physically weak.

But aside from the visible benefits to seniors, these centers also serve as a “home away from home” for many.

Programs offered help to keep members active and healthy. Often, the meals provided are the only source of nutrition for these people.

And the benefits seniors receive through socializing at the centers are immeasurable. Most would otherwise face very lonely days.

So we implore the mayor – look beyond the numbers to the HUMAN aspect.

Look at the REAL costs of these dollar-saving measures, and, as one senior aptly pointed out, “[Don’t forget you’re] going to be old one day.”

 

Facing cuts, seniors rally for Friendship Center


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Friendship Center

Outraged senior residents rallied to protect their center from what they call a city attack on the young and the elderly.

The Friendship Center of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) is facing about $400,000 in cuts from the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene as part of the city’s budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year, which, if not restored, will phase out programs for members — many of whom are mentally and physically weak.

“Tell him [Mayor Michael Bloomberg] if he’s closing these centers like he’s closing the schools, he’s doing the wrong thing,” said Reverend Charles Norris at the rally on May 24. “He’s killing us from the top and he’s killing us from the bottom.”

With public officials in attendance, members carried home-made signs and chanted, “Hell no, we won’t go” as Norris — the former pastor of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica — continued his tirade.

“He flies around in his own personal helicopter and lands it at the heliport that’s closed and not supposed to be used, but since he’s the mayor he thinks he can use it and he’s above the law,” Norris said.

“We must tell that lousy mayor that he can go in his pocket and find $400,000 and give to the center to keep it open.”

The Friendship Center, which is one of three centers within the JSPOA organization, services between 65 and 75 challenged seniors with daily programs ranging from arts & crafts and Wii exercise to music and board games, keeping members active and healthy. The center also provides transportation, meals and a place for locals to socialize.

“I’ve been here for three years,” said Harold Williams, a member of the JSPOA Friendship Center. “You could see some [members] come in sad, but they leave happy. If they take our [center] away many of these people will be lost.”

Last year the center also faced cuts, but funds were restored through support from the community and public officials, who said it is one of the few free sites in southeast Queens.

“We need to stand together, we need to say ‘no you cannot do this to this community,’” Assemblymember William Scarborough said, promising to fight for the center. “If you’re closing this, tell us where we are going to go.”

Friendship Center representatives urged supporters to send letters to the mayor’s office and contact local officials to compel Bloomberg to restore the funding.

“Four hundred thousand dollars is a lot to us,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of the JSPOA. “But in terms of city funding it’s a drop in the bucket.”

One resident just issued a warning to the city and the mayor.

“They forgot they’re going to be old one day,” 80 year-old Helen Mattis said. “And they don’t know what shape they’re going to be in.”

 

Families devastated by cuts to Jamaica senior center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

FRIENDSHIP CENTERw

Some seniors in southeast Queens may soon lose their “friends.”

The Friendship Center — a program under the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) — relies heavily on funding from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to support its rehabilitative programs. However, due to fiscal constraints, the agency said it could no longer support the program after July 1.

“It’s devastating. I just can’t even believe that they did this,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of JSPOA.

The Jamaica-based senior center offers free services to mentally and physically frail elders, who commonly suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and depression. In addition to providing meals and socialization activities, the center hosts psychiatric clinics once a week.

Friendship’s mental health programs originally received $443,000 annually from the DOHMH, Collier said, but funds were cut in half last year. While the other half was restored through community support and discretionary funds, Collier said rallying to raise 100 percent of funding this year would be near impossible.

“It would be very difficult to maintain Friendship for this population without the department’s money. And sending this population to your average run-of-the-mill center is not an alternative because they are not able to participate and socialize with mainstream seniors,” Collier said.

The center — which has been in existence since 1979 — is home to the 65 to 75 seniors who use the center daily, according to the executive director.

The decision to strip the center’s funding has devastated caregivers like Brenda Lacey, whose 93-year-old mother has been going to the center for close to 14 years.

“This has been our lifeline. This is [my mother’s] livelihood,” Lacey said. “I feel terrible because this might be my mother’s demise. For her not to have those people in her life, it would be like losing a family member for her.”

Lacey said she plans to look into other mainstream regular senior centers, but fears her mother will not adjust well to the changes.

“She might not be able to cope. The people wouldn’t understand her like they do at Friendship,” she said. “I’m just praying. It really needs to stay open.”

Eleanor Williams said she’s nervous her 73-year-old husband, Harold, may revert back to depression if the center closes.

“Before Friendship, he was at the point where he was suicidal. He was at the hospital several times at months on end,” Williams said. “Once he got to Friendship, it really brought him totally out of his shell. If you had seen this man a year ago, you would say it wasn’t the same person. Right now, I don’t know where to go from here.”

Meanwhile, Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Ruben Wills said they are “aggressively working” to make sure Friendship keeps its doors open.

“This program is something we should be duplicating throughout the city — not cutting,” said Wills, whose grandmother used the center before her passing. “I don’t know what it is with these budget cuts, but the city seems to always target the most vulnerable population. It’s going too far at this point.”

Wills said he will be posting an online petition on his web site — www.rubenwills.com — later this week in addition to targeting different ways to secure funding.

“This is really unjust. This is really crazy,” he said.

Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center celebrates 41 years


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan Seniors celebrated the center’s 41st anniversary by dancing and sharing their memories.

The Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center — the home away from home for close to 200 of its members — blew out its 41st birthday candle on Thursday, October 13.

Located in South Ozone Park, the center first opened in October 1970. Since then, it has achieved national accreditation status from the National Institute of Senior Centers and has become “the place to be” for hundreds of seniors in the community.

“This anniversary means so much to me,” said member Leonie Alert. “I have been here for 17 years and I’m so glad that we have happy times here all the time.”

Alert, 75, teaches two dance classes during the week. She also heads the center’s dance group, the Rockaway Revue, which performed several dances during the three-day long celebration.

“I just want everyone to keep having fun even if they don’t know how to dance,” she said.

Seniors and center officials found a way to enjoy the anniversary despite the threats they face from city budget cuts.

“Senior centers are up on the chopping block,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA), under whose auspices the Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center operates. “If these places no longer existed, people would be at home, and the isolation could breed a whole other set of problems that are not evident right now because they’re here, and they’re out and about.”

Collier said JSPOA originally ran six centers — now cut down to three.

“This anniversary means being part of an organization that has had its roots here in Queens and has been serving seniors for a very long time,” she said. “I’m looking forward to another 41 years.”

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It offers daily breakfast and lunch, along with an array of activities, including arts and crafts, sign language, billiards, computer training, tai chi, line, African and interpretive dance.

Nelli Hayes started coming to the center close to 35 years ago. The 99-year-old member said her earliest memory of the center is first coming in with her sister.

“I’m not well and my back is giving me a lot of problems, but I have been coming here and I’ve made up my mind to keep coming,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of people here.”