Health & Wellness

Essex County Seniors Honored by County Officials

Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett




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Essex County Legend Awards are Presented to

Irvington resident Mary Reed, Newark resident Barbara Roberts

and West Orange residents Ruth Bernstein and Nancy Trewhella


Cedar Grove, NJ – Montclair resident Margie Johnson, age 102, was honored along with several other Essex County seniors during the Essex County Older Americans Heritage Month celebration on Wednesday.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Division of Senior Services hosted the Annual Essex County Older Americans Heritage Month Celebration on May 10th in the Essex County Robert O’Toole Building in Essex County Cedar Grove Park in Cedar Grove. May is recognized as National Older Americans Month.

During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Essex County Legends Awards to the following Essex County senior citizens:

·   West Orange resident Ruth Bernstein worked as a dental assistant and legal secretary before retiring. She now volunteers with the Essex County Kosher Nutrition Program and has held leadership roles on the Executive Board of the JCC Margulies Senior Center.

·   Irvington resident Mary Reed has spent her life helping children. She has been the foster parent of 21 children with all but one of them graduating college. In addition, she has been President of the Youth Department and taught Sunday School at Bethesda Church of God in Christ in Newark.

·   Newark resident Barbara Roberts has been a long-time member and volunteer at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, where she has been a member of the Ladies Usher Board and choir. In addition, she volunteered to decorate the Bethany Senior Center, where she is the longest attending member.

·   West Orange resident Nancy Trewhella who volunteers her time helping older adults navigate the Medicare System, growing vegetables in a community garden, teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants and assisting fellow seniors with nutrition assistance applications.

In addition, proclamations to congratulate the following seniors on their long lives: East Orange resident Alice Baker, age 102; East Orange resident Mary Dorsey, age 101; Montclair resident, Johnson, age 102; and East Orange resident Mittie Worrell, age 102.

“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.

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. The honorees are as follows:

West Orange resident Ruth Bernstein has been an Essex County resident for 90 of her 100 years. She worked as a dental assistant before marrying her husband and raising their children in West Orange. When their children were in school, she returned to the workforce as a legal secretary for attorneys in Newark, West Orange and Livingston. For the last 13 years, Ms. Bernstein has been a volunteer with the Essex County Kosher Nutrition Program where she works the check-in table two times a week. She continues to live independently and has been active with the JCC Margulies Senior Center, where she has held leadership roles on its Executive Board. Ms. Bernstein was nominated by the JCC MetroWest. “Thank you so much for this very nice honor,” Ms. Bernstein said.

Irvington resident Mary Reed has been a foster parent to 21 children, of which she has adopted two and is in the process of adopting two more. She began advocating for children and fostered her first children when she was just 18 years old. She held multiple jobs and attended college – while continuing to take in additional foster children. All but one of her foster children has graduated from college. Her door also has been open to other neighborhood children, who come to her home to do their homework or eat a meal. In addition, Ms. Reed is a member of Bethesda Church of God in Christ in Newark, where she has served as President of the Youth Department and taught Sunday School. “When I look back on everything I did, it was for the children and to make them an asset for the community. I didn’t do all of this by myself; I had a great deal of support from my family and community,” Ms. Reed said.

Newark resident Barbara Roberts joined Bethany Baptist Church in Newark in 1967 and has served as President and Treasurer of the Ladies Usher Board, a member of the Missionary Society and choir, and the welcoming person for the Bethany Jazz Vespers. As a member of the Bethany Line Dancers, she was featured as a dancer in a commercial for women’s bone health, and used some of the proceeds to purchase equipment for the Bethany Senior Center, where she has been a member since 1991. Ms. Roberts volunteers to decorate the senior center and organized a Carnival Night for the seniors. She also was a model in the Newark Senior Fashion Show and was honored as a Librarian for a Day. She was nominated by the Bethany Senior Citizen Center. “Thank you for this great honor, but I want to turn the tables and thank the County. All the wonderful programming you provide helps us stay active, healthy and alive,” Ms. Roberts said.

West Orange resident Nancy Trewhella has been a volunteer with RSVP since 2015; RSVP connects residents ages 55 years and older with volunteer opportunities. Ms. Trewhella has helped over 175 seniors navigate the Medicare System as a counselor with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program and has mentored new SHIP counselors. She also volunteers with A Lot to Grow, a community garden which grows food for local pantries, soup kitchens and senior residences; with Literacy Volunteers of American as an English as a Second Language teacher and as a counselor to assist seniors who are applying for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, at locations in Newark, Nutley and Montclair. She was nominated by RSVP of Essex and Hudson Counties, which is sponsored by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. “I never really wanted to retire, and it took me some time to find my new passions. I started with being a literacy volunteer and then tried different things because this is my time to give back,” Ms. Trewhella said.

“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.

“A growing percentage of Essex County’s population is over 65, and our challenge is providing the appropriate level of care for our aging grandparents, parents and loved ones,” said Essex County Division of Senior Services Director Jaklyn DeVore. “All of our Older American honorees are active in their communities and have taken responsibility for assisting other seniors. They serve as role models for our youth,” she 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.

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