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Jamaica center seeks to aid boro

During a meeting with reporters and members of the center's board of directors last week, the center's director and a supervisor, said they are concerned that their program, which is known as a "psycho-social" service center, is flying under the radar and as such might be subject to budget cuts. Christine Washington, the center's director, recalled a recent meeting with Alzheimer advocates who were bemoaning a lack of services for sufferers of the disorder."They didn't know we were here," Washington said.Washington said it is too soon to know exactly how the city's budget for 2008 will affect Friendship Center, which is one of five senior centers in southeast Queens run by Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults, or JSPOA.But she does know that most of the center's 60 or so members need rides to Friendship Center and their buses are in bad shape."The vans get worn down in this area," said Stephanie Zevon, who oversees the JSPOA five centers. "We've had three blown tires this week - and it's only Thursday." In addition to the traditional bingo games, art activities and card games offered to adults over 60, the center is visited every week by a doctor and a psychiatrist. In fact, there are only four "psycho-social" centers in the city, where psychiatric care is provided. Washington and Zevon said the program, which is free, is particularly good for Alzheimer's sufferers, who need to keep their bodies and minds active. In addition, eight hours a day at Friendship Center can keep an Alzheimer's patient from having to be institutionalized."It allows them to stay the community where they want to be," Zevon said of the program. "We've found the program can prevent hospitalization."She added: "If they weren't here, they'd be home watching 'Jerry Springer.'"Friendship Center can handle about 70 members and the program runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week. The costs associated with the program are nominal - $1 each way for transportation and a suggested contribution of $1.25 for a hot lunch. The program is open to Queens residents, but transportation is only provided in southeast Queens.Friendship Center is located at 145-06 Farmers Blvd. Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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