Commentaries Community

From The Director’s Desk: Helpful Neighbors and National Senior Center Month

Maria Stella Gulla, Director of ABCD North End / West End NSC

September letter from Maria Stella Gulla, Director of ABCD North End / West End Neighborhood Service Center.

The summer is rapidly drawing to a close, and the weather in true New England fashion has been cool, crisp, rainy, and humid and sunny in turn. Back to School shopping signs abound, and on social media I have seen par­ents mark their XXXth day of work! Like you, all of us at the ABCD North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center (NE/WE NSC) are looking to sneak in one last beach day or barbe­cue. We celebrated Labor Day at the center with chicken, ravioli, salad, and other foods typical to this time of year, and were delighted to hear of seniors who had plans with their families for the upcoming three-day weekend. The NE/WE NSC does not keep weekend hours, and it is not unusual for our eld­erly to be waiting for us Tuesday morn­ing after a long weekend, eager for coffee and socialization.

Monthly celebrations and events are always a focal point for seniors to dis­cuss issues that they are facing, and with “Moving Day” in the neighborhood the day of the party, it was no exception! Some of our seniors with walkers and canes were frustrated and frightened by the lack of accessibility in the narrow, crowded streets of the neighborhood. We were thankful for a visit by Matt Conti of Waterfront News, who ran an informative article detailing how to utilize Boston 311, at the recommendation of Maria Lanza, North End’s own liaison, from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Ser­vices.

September for us is a critical month because it is National Senior Center month. Senior centers offer independ­ence for aging adults. They play a very important role in the lives of elders today by encouraging them to become and remain social. Socializing can help seniors with depression, dementia, or Azheimers. Before the leaves turn, we always use this time to focus on what we have accomplished in the past year and what the seniors in the neighbor­hood need the most, and how our cen­ter can play a vital role in attaining it for them. Above all, my staff and I do what we do with love and respect for seniors, because without that, nothing else matters too much.

I grew up in the North End and being of an Italian family was taught respect for elderly and anyone in need, as we all did in those days. Our grandparents were the heads of our family and to whom we looked for guidance. They cared for us while our parents were working hard to pursue that American dream, which the first generation of immigrants envisioned when they came to America. Looking at recent events in the media it seems to me that those moral obligations of respect and hu­man kindness are out of date and meaningless. Every day it seems the news is featuring a group or individual who has chosen to respond with prejudice, violence, and hate, instead of in­clusion, peace, and love.

I regularly follow the events of the North End neighborhood, and it warms me to see such acts as residents to volunteer to clean up litter in the North End; civics awards for Italian Americans of distinction; and rally for support to help the vic­tims of Hurricane Harvey, several thousand miles away, but bringing out the best of humanity, as the forces of weather are not discriminate in where they strike. These are the folks that live the acts of caring and respect, each and every day. We are thankful that they reside in our neighbor­hoods, and invite them to join in the work that we are carrying out each day at our agency!

The word respect in Latin meant to “look at” and I cannot count how many times I have heard the same plaint from our seniors: “I am invisible. No one cares for us. No one sees us.” The center re­mains thankful for the support of our elected offi­cials-Senator Joe Boncore, Senator Sal Di Domenico, Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Rep­resentative Jay Livingstone-to attend our monthly events and celebrations to hear what their con­stituents need, and to occasionally sponsor bus service for the six dozen or so seniors that partici­pate in recreational trips to places of interest such as Gloucester and Rockport.

The NE/WE NSC prides itself on being a multi­service agency. The center’s “one stop shop” ap­proach enables elders to address many issues in their lives simultaneously: housing, food, heat, health, etc. We take action to the problems facing our communities with responsive solutions in the form of direct services and programs. For the past two years, I have been a member of the steering committee to save the North End Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center. Additional com­mittee members were Chair Alissa Passacantilli Tizzano, Louis Strazzullo, Jason Aluia, Francine Gannon, Pam Donnaruma, Philip Frattaroli, Marie Simboli, and Victor Brogna, NE/WE NSC Advisory Board Member. The facility will be leased to Marquis Health Services, a subsidiary of Tryko Partners, keeping it open for existing resi­dents and future patients. Marquis expects to take over operations in November of this year when Spaulding’s Brighton facility renovation is completed. It is a cause dear to our center’s heart because we all will get old-it happens to us regard­less of how much money we have or where we live.

As I elaborated last month, one of our agency’s goals is to offer a weekly van service to and from the NE/WE NSC, giving each of the low-income elderly housing developments in the North End and West End a turn in the rotation. As of this let­ter, we have reached out to our funders and stakeholders and begun the process of conduct­ing a needs assessment around transportation. The survey was enclosed in the August newsletter, so please have you or the senior in your life fill it out and mail or email back to the center, at your convenience. Email me at if you would like us to send you another one!

Finally, mark your calendars for October 5th, for the ABCD NE/WE NSC’s 7th Annual Buona Sera: An Evening with Friends. Please join us if you can, and the invitation is enclosed in this month’s pub­lication. All funds raised will support educational and human services for North End, West End, and Beacon Hill seniors and families, as well as con­tinuing vital work on affordable, accessible trans­portation for seniors. Not to mention, the afore­mentioned elected officials will be our own fea­tured celebrities at the meet and greet reception for networking, followed by a night of fine dining and socializing. We hope to see you there!

Maria Stella Gulla, Director
ABCD North End / West End Neighborhood Service Center

ABCD’s mission is to empower disadvantaged people by providing them with the tools to overcome poverty, live with dignity, and achieve their full potential. The North End / West End NSC offers a wide-range services to our community. To learn more, read the September 2017 Newsletter ABCD North End West End NSC.