Senior center finds new home

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It was a match made in Woodhaven.

On one side was a senior center forced out of its home by high rent, on the other a volunteer ambulance service that badly needed funds.

The solution? Move in together.

“It was a perfect fit,” said Debra Hoffer, who works with the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center. “Fortunately, we made a wonderful partnership with the volunteer corps.”

The center, which provides activities for elderly Woodhaven and Richmond Hill residents, moved into a room at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps Friday.

“We just needed to rent a space for our seniors at a rent that we can afford,” she said. “We are so excited to be back in our home in Woodhaven.”

But it had been a long journey.

About two years ago, the senior center had a permanent home in Woodhaven, run by Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services, where Hoffer is the projects director. When another arm of the charity moved out of the building, Hoffer said the senior center, funded by the city and donations from elected officials, could no longer afford rent.

“It was an amicable departure,” she said. “We knew we had to go.”

Without a home, the senior center found temporary lodgings in its sister center in Richmond Hill, but Hoffer still wanted to move back to Woodhaven.

Several matchmakers — including Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Maria Thompson, of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. — alerted Hoffer and the charity to a vacancy at the volunteer corps garage, at 78-15 Jamaica Ave., and the charity jumped at the chance to move back to its neighborhood.

And it helped another community organization in the process, according to Kathy Sexton-Dalbey, chief at the corps.

“We figured that it would be great for them to take over some of the bills and rent, and they would also have the space,” she said. “It was helping both of us.”

The volunteer corps had seen its third year of declining donations and was looking for extra cash.

Before the economic recession, the corps might have received $30,000 comprised of mostly private donations. Now Sexton-Dalbey said the corps is lucky to net $8,000 to $10,000. The corps even started to charge insurance companies for pickups since the middle of last year, which is something it had avoided for as long as possible.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Sexton-Dalbey said. “It’s something that we didn’t want to do.”

But Sexton-Dalbey said she was thankful for the extra economic boost from the senior center.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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