STAR Senior Center
The STAR of Washington Heights
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The mission of Washington Heights Community Services, Inc. (WHCS) is to promote successful aging and meet the needs of the well and frail elderly with concrete services.
For over thirty years it has sponsored two initiatives to accomplish this: the STAR Senior Center and a Meals-on-Wheels program. Starting in July of 2009, our primary offering will be at S.T.A.R., the name stands for Seniors Together for Action and Recreation. It was named thirty-four years ago by a high-school student in a contest.
The fulfillment of our mission generates social capital. When a newcomer spots the neighbor who lives down stairs but to whom she’s never spoken, and then finds they both are having their blood pressure checked by the nurses from Harlem Hospital, then sits in the same ESL class or goes on a shopping trip or down to City Hall to advocate for herself and shares the experience over lunch the next day, she and the community are better off. This represents an enriched life worth living and independence worth preserving.
The STAR Senior Center offers a stimulating environment for a host of elderly that would otherwise be isolated and alone. It began In 1970 as a neighborhood storefront operation providing a much needed information and referral service, distributed emergency food and had an active social action committee. Later it developed into a multi-purpose board (1974). The unwritten boundaries are from 155 Street to 220th, between the Harlem and Hudson rivers – the boundaries of Community Board #12. About 73% of the participants are recent immigrants from the Dominican Republic or Latin American countries. Seniors from diverse backgrounds such as Greek, Irish, Italian, Armenian, and Afro-Americans make up the difference.
The Senior Center’s activities include case assistance, information/referral, a home made congregate hot lunch, and a recreational program. Approximately 165 people are seen every weekday out of an active membership list of over 1,673. The services at the center include telephone reassurance for people who are homebound, ESL classes, yoga, Tai Chi, a walking club, health and nutritional workshops, and limited transportation.
Our work as the lead agency in the community in coordinating the delivery of Meals on Wheels for Community Board #12 has ended as a result of the changes taken by New York City in serving their elderly.
The impact on the elderly brought about by the city is just beginning to manifest. We have been ahead in their newly emphasized focus on wellness activities such as a walking club and fall prevention and yoga activities. Our advocation efforts have involved our participants and the other agencies in the community serving the elderly. Our concerted effort is to build unity around our common concerns.
STAR employs ten; eight are full time, two are part-time. There are forty volunteers.
We are partially funded by the New York City Department for the Aging.