NEWARK, NJ - The 10th Annual Essex County Older Americans Heritage Month Celebration was held on Wednesday, May 11, in The Priory restaurant in Newark. May is recognized as National Older Americans Month.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Division of Senior Services hosted the event.

During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Essex County Legends Awards to South Orange resident Nan Samons and East Orange resident Inez Rosalie Alick Elliott. 

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South Orange resident Nan Samons was nominated by the JCC MetroWest Kosher Congregate Nutrition Program. Samons was one of the founders of the Playhouse Cooperative Nursery School 65 years ago, which is still going strong. Samons also owned her own business, Needlepoint and Stitchery, in West Orange.

Now 90 years old, Samons remains involved in community affairs by making life better for fellow seniors. Two years ago, she started SOS (South Orange Seniors), which has established a town-wide discount card for seniors, coordinated intergenerational programming with Seton Hall University (SHU), hosted an Annual Senior Gala, and established a snow shoveling service to assist elder residents.

In addition, Ms. Samons worked with SHU students to produce a documentary highlighting the lives of six South Orange seniors, organized computer literacy classes for her peers, arranged with the South Orange Performing Arts Center to provide free tickets for seniors, and worked with the South Orange Advisory Committee to present Senior Citizen Forums.

“I really am very proud and honored to be a recipient today,” Samons said. “I would like to share this award with everyone in the room. Each of us knows the benefits of volunteering – we learn new skills, feel a sense of purpose and contribute to the success of our community,” she added.

“Older Americans Month is an opportunity for us to recognize the tremendous contributions our senior citizens have made to shape and mold today’s community, and bring attention to the contributions they continue to make on a daily basis to improve our quality of life. Active in all aspects of life, our senior population is proving that you don’t slow down after you reach a certain age,” DiVincenzo said. “Our honorees have exhibited a tremendous amount of responsibility by advocating for and providing assistance that is helping their fellow seniors to remain active and continue living in our community,” he added.

“Of all the events planned by Essex County, nothing is more important than the ones in May to celebrate Older Americans Month. We need to be guided by our elders, and honor the sacrifices of your generation that have made Essex County the great place it is today,” Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver said.

The award winners were nominated by social service agencies and community organizations that work closely with the Essex Division of Senior Services and were chosen because they are positive role models for the younger generation, have worked tirelessly to assist fellow seniors, and made tremendous contributions to improve the quality of life. 

“Our older Americans helped shape our Country, State and County, and they have so much more to give. Americans are living longer, healthier lives and continue to make positive contributions in all aspects of life. We can all learn from them,” Essex County Director of Citizen Services Anibal Ramos said. “Today’s celebration is our opportunity to thank Older Americans for all they have done and to encourage them to stay involved in our communities,” he added.

The Essex County Older Americans Heritage Month Celebration is part of a yearlong series of programs initiated by County Executive DiVincenzo to recognize and celebrate the diversity of Essex County. Other cultural celebrations celebrate African American Heritage, Irish Heritage, Italian Heritage, Jewish Heritage, Latino Heritage, Portuguese Heritage and Women’s History.

The Essex County Division of Senior Services offers a wide range of services to eligible Essex County senior citizens. The Division offers adult protective services, provides basic transportation services, administers adult day care centers, offers counseling services, provides home delivered meals and offers visiting nurse services. For more information, please call the Division of Senior Services at 973-395-8375.