Ridgewood Older Adult Center embraces its golden oldie status with an anniversary celebration

ridgewood older adult center
The Ridgewood Older Adult Center, located at 59-12 70th Ave., celebrated 50 years in the neighborhood with members this June.
Photos courtesy the Ridgewood Older Adult Center

The Ridgewood Older Adult Center, an institution steeped in rich community history celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, all while enduring difficult financial challenges.

Members of the center traveled to their familiar go-to place on Friday, June 21, located at 59-14 70th Ave., to celebrate and appreciate all that the senior center provides.

Raziel Madriaga, the assistant director of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center, shared that the members really took ownership of the anniversary celebration despite challenging environmental and financial factors.

“The seniors really worked as a team in the morning of the party and made the place a whole new space,” said Madriaga, adding how the members really made the center look like an entirely different place.

Pat Dunlay, the resident Picasso, supplied the decorations for the anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center

For instance, Pat Dunlay, who, like many members, considers the facility a second home, is regarded as the Picasso of the senior center. Her creativity and resources went into supplying the golden decorations and custom pieces on Friday.

Over 30 members participated in this year’s anniversary celebration alongside staffers and its board of directors.

Board of Director President Betty Jones made note of the anniversary in the center’s newsletter, sharing warm words with seniors and hopes for more years to come.

“The Center has been a welcoming place for seniors to have fellowship, fun and laughter as well as nourishing luncheons over these many years,” Jones wrote. “The Center has also provided a space of comfort to those who needed assistance with overwhelming concerns. May we have many more years to serve the seniors of our community.”

Pat Baker, Doris Whytal and Ada Vargas pose for a photo in front of the 50th anniversary sign for the ROAC. Photo courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center
Inge Schaefer, Helga Rauch, Ingrid Kanzler and Anna Wirsching at the 50th anniversary celebration of the ROAC. Photo courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center
A candid group moment for ROAC members and guests as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center

The Ridgewood Older Adult Center (ROAC) has experienced significant changes and overcome numerous challenges over the years.

According to the ROAC, its roots are connected to those of the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church. The Church transformed the space into a kindergarten in the late 1960s before it became a Ridgewood preschool program.

The Church then established the Older Adult Center in May 1974, and among many improvements made between that time and 2004, the ROAC separated from the Church and became its own entity.

One of its many successes in serving seniors in Ridgewood comes from the ROAC Food Pantry, which offers food to seniors twice a week in the community. The group continues to provide food to seniors at the facility every day of the week, with free lunches on Thursdays.

Jonice Florea at the helm at the ROAC 50th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy the Ridgewood Older Adult Center
Philip Yany shares a big smile at the ROAC’s 50th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy the Ridgewood Older Adult Center
Donna Hulser joins with friends and fellow members in good spirits at the ROAC 50th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center

Despite the center’s many accomplishments and long-standing history in the community, it has still suffered financial hardship.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the center to shut down in 2020, like many similar senior-focused service centers during that time, and left a financial burden on the organization.

Elena Costea, the executive director of the ROAC, recognized the anniversary and the timely need for further assistance from the public in a letter to the public and members.

“From Wellness programs to recreation activities, we strive to enrich the lives of our elderly population,” Costea wrote. “However, in order to continue offering these invaluable services, we rely heavily on the generosity of individuals like you.”

The center has also become a place of refuge for migrants, with the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church being part of a city-wide initiative that uses houses of worship to cater to the influx of visitors searching for a better life.

ROAC shares the space as part of the migrant program and morphs into a shelter after center hours.

(From top left to bottom right) William Zimmerman, Claudette Chambers, Cathy Frank with her aide Maria, Vicki Zelinski with daughter, Noreen Novack and John Simonetti, Jimmy Ziccardi, Dieter Vey and Colette Slagle. Photos courtesy of the Ridgewood Older Adult Center

ROAC started a GoFundMe campaign in April to help maintain its neighborhood program, as staffers at the long-time senior center told QNS the cost of staying at the building has become too expensive.

The fundraising effort is ongoing, and each donation goes directly to providing seniors with services. A $50 donation can provide meals for a senior for a month and $100 helps bring wellness workshops and educational seminars.

Large donors include Domenico Ciaccio, the vice president and CRA Officer at Ridgewood Savings, among others. A number of anonymous donors have also contributed in the hundred-dollar range.

The Ridgewood Older Adult Center’s stay in the neighborhood is an achievement few can achieve, and even less celebrate with some residents who are well into their golden years.

ROAC asks anyone willing to donate to visit its website at www.roacny.org or contact the office directly at roac5914@gmail.com and on the phone at (718) 454-2000.