Maplewood officially opens senior center on Burnett

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Senior Center officially opened its doors Saturday, March 17. Maplewood’s senior citizens gathered at the Burnett Avenue building, formerly the Maplewood Baptist Church, to celebrate grand opening of the space, which hosts activities for seniors. While the senior center has been operating for almost a year, renovations to the building were recently completed and the ribbon was cut to officially open it to the public.

“We’re considering it an annex to DeHart,” Melissa Mancuso, Maplewood’s director of recreation and cultural affairs, told the News-Record in an interview at the event. “That wasn’t their own space, but this is for them. It’s a place for them to feel at home, they can wear their slippers here.”

The senior center is located right next door to DeHart Community Center and DeHart Park. According to Mancuso, speakers and holiday parties have already been hosted in the senior center, as well as tulip planting and filling eggs for the township’s egg hunt.

“It’s been all hands on deck,” Mancuso said, adding that all the recreation department’s employees were involved in getting the senior center up and running. There are usually approximately 40 people at each event the town throws for the seniors, but Mancuso hopes for more than that.

“We want more,” she said. “We’re always trying to find new ways to reach the seniors. The doors are open, so they can come down here and find companionship.”

With a newly renovated kitchen and lounge space, Mancuso said the senior center will now have an open-door policy. Seniors will be able to stop by to use the facility whenever they want. Bookshelves are stocked with reading material and board games, and the TV in the lounge area has Netflix ready to go.

DeLuca was happy to see the Maplewood seniors finally have their own dedicated space. According to the mayor, after the church closed, the building went to auction. The town walked away from the sale after being outbid by $10,000, but a few months later the sale fell through and Maplewood was able to purchase the church for its senior center.

“We’re happy to officially open the building; we’re happy to run programs for the older generation,” DeLuca told the News-Record in an interview at the event. “This was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up, with it right next to the park. So we’re happy to open it today and keep it going.”

Wendy Celano has been a Maplewood resident since 1976, and frequently attends the exercise classes the town offers seniors, as well as the holiday parties. She told the News-Record the new center is a place she sees herself coming to when she can.

“They do a nice job,” Celano said. “They really make an effort for seniors and for everyone. I love being in Maplewood.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic