This is not a development article. It’s not a restaurant review either. There are no major environmental impact issues being discussed, or any other earth shattering news.
Right now, I want to talk about the Buffalo Center and Waterfront Center, which recently hosted a dance outing for the West Side Community Center on Vermont Street.
I must admit, for a second I almost passed right by an email that clued me into this dance (yes, just a dance). Then, I looked at a couple of photos, and remembered the days when I worked in the elderly care business. I will never forget those days – they made me a much more compassionate person. While working in that environment, I learned a lot. Every day was an eye opener, into the lives of people who had lived their lives to the fullest. I look back and think about all of the times that they jumped at an opportunity to relive their golden years, via orchestrated activities such as painting classes, book forums, or even dances.
Now, here was this email, coming from someone who felt that we might be interested in seniors taking dance lessons on the West Side of the city. While the cranes were rising into the sky, bike lanes were being laid down, and a yoga studios were opening left and right, this charming slice of life was unfolding at the same time. And we almost missed it, because in all of the frenzied excitement of Buffalo on the rise, sometimes we forget about what is truly important… the simple things in life that help to make Buffalo a wonderful place to live, no matter what age.
After reading the initial email, I found myself with more questions than answers. So here’s a little Q&A, with Jeff Jacomowitz who is the Public Relations Director at Centers Health Care.
Who initiated this?
Researching the WSCS membership in SeniorNet, and all the detailed & thoughtful coordination to date is the work of Dale Winchell, a UB School of Social Work graduate student, as the focus of his community social work field placement. The first year of membership was generously underwritten by the Rich Family Foundation, on the recommendation of Howard Rich.
Will there be more dances in the future? West Side Seniors (WSS), a program of West Side Community Services (WSCS), now intends to hold dances quarterly, complete with dance instructors and karaoke machines! This inaugural dance was very well attended due to the generous support of Centers Healthcare (including limousine services) and the creative genius of Danette Porto, director of Senior Services, and Joni Russ, Activity Coordinator. Danette and Joni are always looking for community partners who are interested in helping WSS have fun!
Are these new activities? Senior dances is a new activity for WSCS, based on enthusiastic suggestions in response to outreach into the senior community …
How many seniors took up the offer for dancing? Fifty-nine seniors attended, one driving in all the way from Hamburg!
You mention other social and educational opportunities, such as computer lessons. How many are interested in the computer lessons? WSCS is the first SeniorNet site in WNY (that we know of) and this organizational membership allows WSCS to connect seniors to technology in a way that improves the quality of their lives. More that just lessons, SeniorNet offers multiple curricula from basic to advanced, from how to move a mouse to how to photoshop. These curricula are designed to be “coached” by volunteers so WSCS is undertaking a huge effort to recruit and train these volunteers, ideally seniors themselves, who are tech savvy and want to teach others how to use technology to great benefit. WSCS is getting the work out through a grand opening on March 30th with tours and refreshments available from 12-2 (ribbon cutting @ 1 PM).Space is limited so people will have to RSVP.
At the moment, WSCS/WSS is welcoming small groups (10) of seniors to visit the co-working space for an orientation and introduction through a basic curriculum during Tech Savvy Seniors held on Mondays from 1030 – 12 noon. Eventually, curricula will be offered on a regular weekly schedule. Additionally, WSCS will take some SeniorNet workshops “on the road” to other centers and/or libraries to provide critical information regarding internet safety, senior scams, etc.
Are there other activities on the horizon? For seniors services, there are two critical issues: recruitment of new members (for participation and volunteering) and more fully developing a Health & Wellness menu offered at multiple sites, that will help seniors address issues including balance, falls prevention, range of motion, and strength. Right now, SeniorNet is looking for a volunteer interested in coordinating SeniorNet activities, instructors, and coaches. The WSCS Director of Health & Wellness, Bobby Calvaneso, is actively looking for community partners who might be interested in contributing to the development of this menu.
Ok, I have to ask, seeing that it is Buffalo Rising… what’s the history of the facility? West Side Community Services (WSCS) was originally incorporated as the Massachusetts Community Center in 1975 as an organization that would provide supportive services for residents of the West Side, focused specifically “aiding, assisting, developing, promoting, fostering encouraging and preserving the cultural, economic, social and physical welfare of persons residing in the Niagara District.” Located at 161 Vermont Street (the site of three different public school buildings dating back to 1897), old P.S. 49 has been “home” to WSCS for at least 20 years. WSCS is currently funded to provide creative and norm-changing alternatives to violence, prevention of early onset of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; activities and out-of-school enrichment for at risk youth; and activities, health & wellness, and limited transportation for seniors.
What are the building amenities?
Count on the number of rooms and spaces:
- 3 admin offices
- 1 Health & Wellness Center
- 1 auditorium/gym space/event rental space
- 3 office/classrooms
- Prevention shares with the board & community groups i.e., local business associations
- Health & Wellness shares with Recycle Bicycle and yoga
- Education shares with community meetings
- 1 Co-Working Space, containing SeniorNet (technology for everyone from seniors learning how to program an ipad to people learning ESL to teens developing a resume, to neighborhood entrepreneurs who need “office space”
- 1 gameroom
- 1 senior room/dining room
- 1 kitchen
- 1 outdoor basketball court
- 1 big backyard
- 1 community garden with 5 raised beds
Physical address: 161 Vermont Street 14213 (between Fargo & West)
Anything else that readers might find of interest:
WSCS is home of the…
- COME HOME TO THE WEST SIDE 5K that will run annually on the second Sunday in October (Columbus Day weekend)
- Annual REMARKABLE West Sider Awards (just held 3/12/2017) that honors West Side adults & teens who are doing remarkable community work under the radar
- 10th Annual JUST DESSERTS (coming this spring)