Connection, partnership key to West Philadelphia Senior Community Center’s success
West Philadelphia Senior Community Center (WPSCC) is located a couple blocks from the Philadelphia Zoo in the Parkside section. The expansive building that was designed to house a state-of-the-art senior center is a real knockout and has been nicknamed the “Wow of West Philadelphia.” The neighborhood’s great sense of community is reflected inside WPSCC’s doors with an energetic and welcoming vibe.
A cadre of active older adult members contribute to WPSCC’s success. “We pride ourselves on being a member-driven senior center,” said Rose Richardson, executive director of WPSCC. With more than 25 years of experience working in senior services, she leads a staff of eight employees and garners additional assistance from member volunteers.
WPSCC restarted in-person activities on July 6 with members’ input. “Prior to re-opening, we created a specific task force [that consisted of] our advisory council and center members of each of the disciplines that we were thinking of offering,” Richardson said. “For us, this holistic approach really makes a difference. We empower our members to lead.”
Many members and volunteers share Richardson’s vision of what should be done for older adults and work hard to make WPSCC a beautiful, energetic space. One recent morning, a Milestones reporter talked with members amid the center’s buzz of activity, which illustrates the nourishment of body and mind that older adults find at WPSCC. Meals are being prepared in the kitchen area and an energizing exercise class is in progress in the lobby atrium area. Leonard Jenkins, 84, is visiting with WPSCC friends while his wife Ida enjoys the workout class.
A month after reopening for in-person services, the number of older adults visiting WPSCC daily is around 60. That is half as many visitors pre-COVID because distancing rules allow fewer programs to be offered. Although classes are smaller, they still include a variety of activities, such as fitness, dance, games, wellness and art.
“Our members wanted our center re-opened,” Richardson said. “We had to do what was in their best interests, and that’s exactly what we did. They said they’d help in whatever way needed, and they are here every day.”
Even when the building was closed to older adults, the WPSCC staff still provided services, including virtual programming and grab-and-go meals. “I am most proud that we never closed during COVID, not for a week,” Richardson said. “We reached out and found those who needed a meal, a wellness check or other services. We were a connector to the people at home.”
Bertha Martin Nagbe, 78, is the president of WPSCC’s advisory council and has been a member of the center since 2013. “When I retired [from Aramark after 30 years], I wanted to work with older adults and one of my neighbors recommended I visit this center,” said Martin Nagbe, who now volunteers five days a week at the center’s front desk “I really like it here because there are so many things going on. I quickly became very involved. I volunteer because this center is for us, for our neighborhood, for our people. I love the people. This is family. This is my home away from home. We as older adults need some place to go. People need people. We need each other.”
West Philadelphia Senior Community Center, located at 1016 N. 41st St., is funded by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) and Liberty Lutheran. The center is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended evening hours until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. For more information, stop by the center, call 215-386-0379 or go to LibertyLutheran.org/west-philadelphia-senior-community-center.