SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The Senior Citizens Center of South Plainfield, located at 90 Maple Ave., is a hive of energizing activity, available to residents of South Plainfield from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. The first thing that is apparent when one enters the center is the comfortable feeling that emanates from the members who sit in comfortable chairs, reading newspapers, or a novel from the center's extensive library, or just chatting quietly amongst themselves.
In the background a visitor can see the billiards table, and a work out room, ready for participants. Exercise is a key facet in the extensive offerings of programs offered at the Center. Director Tree Olano, who has worked at the Center since 2011, reports, “We have a wide offering of gym and exercise classes. For example, we offer Zumba, Silver Sneakers, and the specially popular Healthy Bones.”
Procuring membership to the Center is a simple process. One must be at least 55 years old and be able to present proof or residency as living in South Plainfield. After filling out some informational documents, and paying the $10 membership fee, the new member is entered into the Center's computer system and is ready to start enjoying the comraderie of getting to know new people and have fun.
Membership in the Senior Center offers a myriad of benefits, starting with nutritional meals. A light breakfast, consisting of coffee, tea, toast, and a variety of condiments is available. Breakfast is sponsored by the Women's Suburban Club of South Plainfield, a well established organization in town.
Over thirty seniors enjoy a wholesome lunch each day, provided through the Middlesex County Meals on Wheels system, which services eight senior centers in the county each day. A typical lunch includes a main course, consisting of a protein and vegetables, a salad, bread, and dessert. An example of a typical menu would be on January 12th the meal will include Italian Sausage and Peppers, Red Skin Wedge Potatoes, Zucchini and Stewed Tomatoes, Mediterranean Chick Pea Salad, Sliced Club Roll, and Chocolate Pudding. Clearly, no one leaves lunch hungry.
Kerri Edwards, the County Site Manager for the meals program, also oversees a monthly birthday party for members who are celebrating, which includes delicious cake and coffee.
“The Senior Center provides our members with a purpose,” Olano states. “Right now we are getting ready for our Valentine's Day Dance, which is scheduled for February 19. Our parties tend to draw 100 people, and we offer a full dinner and dancing.” Olano encourages members to register quickly for the Valentines Day Bash, which will coast members $5 to attend. “Members will be getting dressed up for this dance,” Olano mentioned. “It's a special occasion.”
Aside from meals and social events, the Senior Center offers a variety of art classes, directed by master teacher Lora MacLean. The nice thing is that one does not have to be an experienced artist to attend the classes; novices are welcome. The cost per two hour class is $10, which covers the cost of materials used in the class, but Olano cautioned that those who are interested in signing up for the next class, which will be offered in February, should do so soon. “These classes are very popular and fill up quickly,” she explains.
In the last couple of months, the products of the art classes have included beautiful, hand painted wine glasses and glass blocks, with pictures of snow men painted on them. These stunning hand made items could be given as gifts to loved ones, or kept and treasured by the senior artists. The next class will be a wine bottle painting session.
Olano observes of the art program's huge success, “I wanted to bring back art projects to the center, but projects with a twist. I didn't want to see the same old thing; I wanted something fresh, fun, and functional.”
Other activities that are available at the center include a Knitting and Crocheting class, and the ever popular Bingo sessions. Olano also explains, “I am always looking to expand the Center. Recently we received an anonymous donation of a brand new computer lab, complete with ten computers, all fitted with Windows 10. This is a very exciting gift for us.”
Aside from on-site programs, field trips occur monthly to casinos in Atlantic City and the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa. The trips depart at 9:00 am and return usually at 7:00 pm. Other field trips have included sojourns to the Brownstone for Mardi Gras and Doolan's in Belmar for a St. Patricks Day fest.
Community groups play a huge role in continually supporting programs at the Senior Center. “Scouting groups are particularly helpful to us,” Olano comments. “Eagle Scouts volunteer to do their projects here, and Brownie groups come and sing to our Seniors.”
Olano notes that the South Plainfield High School Honor Society helped to establish an incredible vegetable garden at the Center. “We now grow our own tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, herbs, and eggplant. The Seniors get to eat the delicious fresh vegetables in the summer, and well into the fall. Volunteers help us to maintain the garden. Everyone loves it.”
For Olano plans to expand programs and even the building itself as she lets her mind wander on what more can be done to improve the programs. “I tend to want it all . . . and I get it done! I wish we had one more large meeting room that we could use for yoga classes. I love to bring in new things, get more people, especially children, involved.
And with Tree Olano's dedication and spirit, the South Plainfield Senior Center will continue to flourish. Having expanded its membership 43% since Olano took over, the Center now boasts over 500 members.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the South Plainfield Senior Center, or wish to volunteer, please call908-754-1047.