SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield Senior Center held a special day of celebration on Dec. 19. They began with the Lighting of the Menorah and Lighting of the Senior Christmas Tree. Students from Holy Savior Academy Choir and Advanced Chimes treated the seniors to a performance of Christmas favorites, after which the seniors enjoyed a festive meal, and danced the afternoon away.
“This time of year at the Senior Center is amazing,” said Angela Greco. “Everything they do here is amazing. The biggest thing here is the people who are running it. They’re the nicest people you ever want to meet and they go all out for us, they really do.”
“It was a such a warm and welcoming way to kick off the holidays at our Senior Center,” Councilwoman Christine Faustini said. “Thanks so much to the Senior Center staff, volunteers and crafters for sharing all their beautiful creations!”
“Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!” Senior Center Director Tree Olano said. “I’d like to start with lighting our Menorah. When the Jews reclaimed the Holy Temple after the battle, they wished to light a Menorah, only to discover that the oil was contaminated so all that remained was one cruse of pure oil and it was only to last once night. Miraculously, the one day supply of oil lasted eight days and eight nights and that’s how the holiday of Hanukkah started.”
After the Menorah was lit, the dedication of the Senior Christmas Tree began. The tree was adorned with handmade ornaments with meticulous detail created by Grace McGinnis and her craft class, Gracefully Made. McGinnis has lived in South Plainfield for 64 years and has a gift for seeing the potential in everyday household items. She and her art class transform them into beautiful ornaments.
“We have a lot of laughs, drink coffee, chit chat while we’re making these ornaments and crafts,” said Pat DiGiacomo. “It’s just wonderful.”
“It’s amazing how every year, we have this beautiful tree with all handmade ornaments from Gracefully Made,” Olano said. “Every time something comes in and I’m about to put it in the trash, Grace is always like, wait a minute, let me see what I can do with that.”
Intricate ornaments were created out of CDs, battery powered tea light candles, tongue depressors and angels made out of ribbons.
“We meet for our art class once a week,” Patti Taber said. “We made the ornaments for the tree. I just love Gracefully Made.”
“This is absolutely amazing,” Olano said. “All of these ladies made these beautiful ornaments and did such a great job. I’m so blessed to have you. Thank you so much!”
Olano explained that the evergreen is the symbol of eternal life because it stays green in the winter and that Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.
“Merry Christmas to all!” said Olano. “We just want to take a moment to wish everyone here, all my lovely seniors, a very joyous, healthy, happy holiday season. This is the meaning of the Senior Center. I love coming to work here. It means a lot to me, so thank you very much. We’re going to have an awesome party today, the kids are coming to sing, and let’s light the tree.”
“As we light the Menorah and the tree, the spirit of the Senior Center is bringing light into everybody’s life, so I want to thank Tree and everyone here for everything,” added Taber.
With that, the Senior Christmas Tree was lit and everyone applauded. The Senior Center has eight donated trees that are decorated each year.
“It’s just a really happy place to be this time a year,” said Olano. “And I know that sometimes the seniors get a little sad this time of year, missing loved ones, myself included, but there’s something about the spirit here, that keeps us going.”
Students from Holy Savior Academy Choir and Advanced Chimes visited to perform Christmas favorites for the large audience who came out for the festivities. After performing several favorites singing onstage as well as performing a selection of pieces with chimes, the students made their way through the crowd, encouraging everyone to join in.
“This is an annual event that we enjoy doing," said Susan Loughlin, Music Director at Holy Savior Academy. "As soon as our pageant is over we bring our show on the road down here and they love having us. We love singing with them. This is a lovely service project for the kids."
“I thought the students were wonderful,” said Val Della Sala. “I really enjoyed it. They were really lovely. I’ve been coming every year for well over ten years. We love everything here. We go to all the events. They’re so good to us at this center. Tree is wonderful.”
“I loved the kids performance,” said Fleurette Taylor. “It was very sweet that they come over. It’s a very happy occasion.”
The Senior Center offers a place for seniors to socialize, exercise, eat, travel and much more. They offer many classes, including computer instruction and crafts. Many say, they don’t know what they would do without it.
“I love the senior center,” said Taber. “I love the book club and all of the exercise. I go to Zumba three times a week and we have chair yoga twice a week. We have exercise with Greg which is aerobic.”
“I’ve been coming here over eight years,” said Fleurette Taylor. “After my husband passed away, I was lonely and someone said to come here and I love it. I come here for all the events. Everyone is so friendly and it’s fun."
“The Senior Center is a lifesaver,” said Pat DiGiacomo. “Otherwise I’d be alone at home doing nothing, so it’s a lot of fun. There are so many activities. Every month there’s a trip somewhere. Last week we went to Radio City Music Hall, had dinner in Little Italy and walked around and saw the tree. There’s just so much to do here and I’ve met so many people.”
“Before I retired, I knew nobody in town because I would commute to Manhattan or Jersey City and I never saw anybody,” said DiGiacomo. “I didn’t know my neighbors, but now I’m retired and I’m meeting people and making friends. It’s wonderful.”
After the performance, the DJ set up and the Christmas party began. With lots of food, dancing and good conversation, the seniors enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon. And everyone left with a gift.
“Our seniors help in so many ways to make our spirits shine brighter!” Faustini said. “This is so important to so many people who need a little extra lift this time and all year long.”