With the Chestnut Hill Fund Drive in full swing, we checked in with past grantees and their constituents about how the generosity of the community has helped them. This week, we hear from Chestnut Hill Center of Enrichment which received a $14,000 grant to support programs offered to area seniors (50+years). Two hundred members take advantage of the programming offered by the center and 40 percent live in Chestnut Hill.

It Takes a Center. When Joe first walked into the Chestnut Hill Center of Enrichment (CHCE), his “wish list” was modest. As a new resident of Mt. Airy in his early 60’s, he was looking to make friends. CHCE executive director Mary Zell suggested that Joe start out by attending the monthly community luncheons CHCE holds in coordination with Center on the Hill, Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels and Keystone Care.

A tall man with a quiet demeanor and an easy smile, Joe was living on a fixed income and was concerned that he might not be able to afford the $7 luncheon fee. CHCE was able to subsidize Joe’s meals. The food was delicious and plentiful (second helpings are encouraged) and Joe soon became a familiar face at the luncheons, which attract 50 to 60 seniors, September through May.

Last spring, CHCE board president Marilyn Paucker asked Joe how he was doing. “Not so good,” he replied. “I haven’t been able to take my medication.” After much hesitation, Joe finally admitted that he was a diabetic and didn’t have $40 to buy insulin. Paucker immediately pulled Joe aside and gave him the money in spite of his objections. Tears flowed from Joe’s eyes. He couldn’t believe that a “stranger” would care so much about him.

Like so many older Americans who have to choose between buying medications or paying rent, Joe needed an ongoing solution to maintain his health. CHCE assistant director Stacia Friedman put Joe in touch with a pharmaceutical company that supplies medications free-of-charge to low-income individuals.

This past November, after the last of the chocolate chip cookies were passed around at the luncheon, Joe confided that he was supposed to have a surgical procedure the next day to remove a cancerous growth, but might not be able to go. “Why not?” Paucker asked. “My doctor says I can’t take public transportation home because of the anesthesia,” explained Joe. “And I don’t have anyone to drive me.”

CHCE staff and a volunteer from Meals on Wheels took up a collection to arrange Joe’s transportation home from the hospital through My Way, a nonprofit organization in Mt Airy. My Way made sure that CHCE was in constant communication with the hospital and knew Joe’s outcome.

“Joe found himself surrounded by people with good hearts and the knowledge of resources when he needed it most. We are proud to be part of the safety net that has helped Joe and many other vulnerable members of our community for 35 years,” said Zell. “Thanks to CHCF’s generous support, we are able to provide a wide range of activities and resources to help older adults maintain their independence, without ever feeling alone.”

Stacia Friedman

Assistant Director

Chestnut Hill Center of Enrichment

To make a donation to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, visit chestnuthill.org or Town Hall at 8434 Germantown Avenue. The Fund Drive will continue through the end of March.