Mabel Kay Senior Center, a wish come true for area seniors

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What started out as a wish for area seniors to find a haven has become a reality in the Mabel Kay Senior Center. The little center has become a place for area seniors to enjoy themselves, while making friends and a second family.

MKSC, a non-profit organization located at 24 Walnut St., is Haddonfield’s senior citizen center, offering classes, programs, events and more all for area seniors.

“Watching it grow from almost 15 years ago, where there were just a few programs, and watching it develop into a haven for area seniors is my biggest joy,” Director Dory Mann said.

The MKSC was started when Mabel Kay, a Haddonfield resident who lived on Lake Street, donated her house in her will to the borough, wishing that it be a haven for Haddonfield seniors. Her house was used for a few years, but was too small. So in 1994, the borough sold Kay’s house and bought the building the MKSC is at today, dedicating it to Kay.

When it was first started, the MKSC was used as a hospitality house for seniors and not many things were going on. Then, the part-time director at the time gave Mann, who has been with the MKSC for 15 years, the opportunity to get as many programs as it could so the center would truly be a haven for seniors in the area.

Now, the MKSC offers a plethora of classes, programs and events to area seniors who range in age from early 60s to 98.

“I take pride in MKSC. It was Mabel Kay’s dream that seniors have a place to go, but this house wasn’t used to capacity, and now is used in full. I think it has done what she wanted it to do, and I’m proud of that,” Mann said.

Seniors have the opportunity to take exercise classes, including cardio, tai chi, light aerobics and line dancing. Every instructor has taught for more than 30 years and has geared the classes specifically toward all seniors, both those who sit and those who stand, making it stand out from other senior centers who usually accommodate one. The classes are held once or twice a week at the Tarditi Commons, with a nominal fee of $1 for residents and $2 for non-residents.

“I really think we have the premier exercise programs here. Each instructor has such a history in the area and geared their classes specifically for seniors; (the classes can) be appreciated sitting or standing, which is amazing,” Mann said.

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The center also offers a painting class for seniors over 55 for everyone from art teachers to non-painters on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for $2 for residents and $5 for non-residents. Many of those who have participated in the class have won awards and contests with their art, according to Mann. Computer Club, for individuals who are computer literate, meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. Bingo and bridge are held on alternating Tuesdays, which are two of the programs seniors enjoy the most, according to Mann.

For Mann, Friday is her favorite day of the week. It is the day she really gets to be hands on and interact with the seniors. Every Friday, seniors meet for lunch and for a special event. Sometimes it is bingo or “remember whens,” when seniors talk about their families and the past, but other times it hosts a speaker or entertainer. This event is free and offers either pizza or sandwiches for seniors to enjoy, while also enjoying a fun activity.

MKSC also hosts four major annual events each year that invite all area seniors to come and participate in. Fifty to 100 seniors come to each event. During the summer, it has its Beginning of Summer Picnic, which was held on June 6, and its End of Summer Picnic, which will be held on Sept. 5 this year. The two other events are its St. Patty’s Day Dinner and Thanksgiving Day Dinner, which is a full dinner. Each costs $3 for resident and non-resident seniors.

MKSC isn’t just used for senior programs. It is used as a library, meeting house and cooling center.

MKSC hosts a library of more than 800 books for seniors, which requires no sign outs. Seniors can come in and take a book on their vacation for a month or so and bring it back when they’re done. MKSC is also a cooling center for Camden County that anyone can stop in and cool down on hot days.

“If you have to get out of the sun, come in here and get a cool drink and just cool off,” Mann said.

Also at the MKSC, there is a bin for collecting non-perishable goods for dire need seniors in Camden County. As little as it is, MKSC is one of the largest contributors to the senior food shelf. Anyone can stop in and drop off some food items in the bin at MKSC during its hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mann wanted to be sure it wasn’t forgotten that the MKSC wouldn’t be where it is today without borough officials and volunteers. The borough supports many of the programs at MKSC and volunteers help to run the programs and keep them alive and going. Volunteers range from groups of students to individual volunteers.

For the future, Mann, along with the MKSC Board of Trustees, would like to obtain grants to improve the center, as the building needs work and maintenance.

For more information on the MKSC, go to the borough website and visit www.haddonfieldnj.org/borough_dept_seniors.php or you can call (856) 354–8789.