What began when two couples met in Cedarhurst Park blossomed into a place where seniors from the Five Towns meet on a regular basis and take part in a variety of activities.
The Cedarhurst senior center celebrated its 40th anniversary with a party attended by about 30 seniors and local leaders in its space in Village Hall on Monday.
The program began when Murray Frommer, Herbert Steigler and their spouses used to meet in the park across the street, according to Irene Zullo, the program’s director. “When the weather started to get cold, it was the mayor at the time — Mayor Nicholas Farina — who brought the project indoors,” she recalled. “The deputy mayor at the time, Andrew Parise, got to oversee this project become a program.”
Zullo has been a part of the senior center program for 20 years and has seen many developments. “There was a proposal made to the village board to start the center, which was made official on May 4, 1974,” she said. “A room was added on a year after the program started. Since then we have refurbished the kitchen and have made the center entrances wheelchair-accessible. Anything to help make our center more comfortable for our seniors, we’ve done.”
The senior center, known officially as Cedarhurst Seniors in the Park, is one of 16 such centers funded by the Town of Hempstead, according to Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky, a town spokeswoman. “The building is provided by the village at no additional cost,” she explained. “Operating costs and funding are not exclusive to the Cedarhurst site. Our instructors, for example, are contracted through the Town of Hempstead. Our senior centers are fantastic. They offer so many programs for our older citizens.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray wasn’t able to attend the celebration, but said that the center provides enriching activities for the town’s elder residents. “Whether it’s taking a Zumba class together, collaborating on an arts-and-crafts project or just enjoying the company of friends, the members of the Cedarhurst Senior Center have formed a very close-knit family at their home away from home,” she wrote in an email. “It is our mission here in the Town of Hempstead to ensure that all senior citizens be able to enjoy their golden years as much as our friends at the Cedarhurst Senior Center have over the past 40 years.”
Mary-Ann Barsuaskas, current president of the center’s board, said that she is honored and thankful to be involved. “I enjoy coming every day,” she said. “We have crafts, exercising, and the chance to visit other centers. We laugh, we cry. We have good times and bad. This is our home away from home. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Rosalie Benenati, of Woodmere, said that visiting other centers in town is one reason she loves coming to the center. “It’s the intergenerational program they have at the Valley Stream Senior Center,” she said. “The high school kids come and visit with us, and their chorus and band provide music.”
Cedarhurst resident Pat Verdolino said she loves to come to the center to visit with her friends. “I’m retired now, and a housewife,” she said. “Coming to the center, it gets me out of the house. I get to meet other people. Playing cards is my favorite activity.”
Parise, now the longtime mayor of the village, said he couldn’t believe it was the center’s 40th anniversary, and thanked Zullo for her service. “We couldn’t have had a better person to direct our center,” he said. “We don’t know what we would ever do without you, so don’t ever retire.”
For more information about the center, call (516) 295-1177. It schedules activities Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.