With speeches and a musical performance, the Southold Town Senior Services Center in Mattituck celebrated its golden anniversary Friday.

“Since we started, we have served over 2 million meals,” said Jacqueline Martinez, the center’s director since January 2023. She first joined the center in 2007. “We started out as a nutrition program, but we have expanded to be able to offer new services that meet the needs of the community here in Southold.”

Southold Town Supervisor Al Krupski and Holly Rhodes-Teague, the director of the Suffolk County Office for the Aging, attended the event to recognize the good works the Southold center has performed for five decades.

“You can’t take it for granted, the work that keeps this place running,” Mr. Krupski said before presenting Ms. Martinez with a proclamation recognizing the center’s 50 years of community service. “You talk to some of the employees here and it gives you a good feeling living in Southold Town.”

“I see the senior centers all around the county, and this one — by far — is one of the friendliest, most passionate group of people I’ve ever met,” Ms. Rhodes-Teague said. She commended the center for its eagerness to innovate to meet the community’s needs. “We tried starting the shopping program a couple of years ago, and some towns told me they weren’t interested. They had no interest in trying something new. I called [then-senior center director Karen McLaughlin] and she said, ‘we’ll give it a shot.’ ”

The center serves home-cooked lunches to residents over the age of 60 on weekdays. Seniors are welcome to eat in the center’s dining area, pick up their meal or even have it delivered to their home. The town also provides senior day care in an adjacent building on the site. In recent years, the center has expanded its services designed to help Southold’s elders age in place with independence and dignity here in the town. Senior center employees will pick up residents and take them shopping, or even shop for them, and perform case management and residential repair services. At the community hub, Southold’s seniors can also enjoy arts and crafts, listen to guest speakers, participate in classes on senior wellness and watch movies.

In addition to hard work of the employees who have come and gone over the last five decades, it was federal legislation that made the Southold Town Senior Services Center possible.

“The Older Americans Act of 1965 shaped national policy, addressing [seniors’] economic, social, physical and psychological well being,” Ms. Martinez said. “Directly from that legislation, senior centers opened up all over the place. One March 17, 1974, the Southold Town Senior Service Program started at San Simeon [by the Sound, a nursing home in Greenport].”

Thanks to the Older Americans Act, the Town of Huntington opened its senior center within mere days of Southold’s opening in 1974. They were the first towns to offer such services in Suffolk County. Today, Southold Town, the New York State Office for the Aging and the Suffolk County Office for the Aging fund the senior center.

From its Greenport location, town began serving its seniors through a Meals on Wheels program before expanding to the hall at St. Agnes R.C. Church, also in Greenport. In the mid-1990s, the town’s senior services found a home on Pacific Street in Mattituck.

Nicholas Grasso photo

Shatina Jayne, the senior center’s manager who oversees its nutrition program and coordinates events, joined the center in 2019, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the period when the community’s oldest members needed help more than any other. During this time, the center, then under the leadership of Ms. McLaughlin, ramped up its meal production to deliver hot meals to client’s homes and initiated the shopping assistance program to which Ms. Rhodes-Teague referred.

When asked what might tee up the center for another 50 years of success, Ms. Jayne said the center’s staff must keep recognizing additional needs of the town’s seniors and finding out ways to satisfy them. She said the senior’s success and adaptability is a matter of “just listening to the community, hearing what they need and trying to meet those needs as best we can. Out here in particular, one of the needs that we noticed was transportation, so we provide transportation to our seniors for medical appointments.”

When asked what kept bringing her back to the center during the tumultuous pandemic period, Ms. Jayne replied, “the seniors.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *