It wasn’t until 2008 that Abington had its very own senior center. In fact, Abington was one of the last towns in the state without one when voters overwhelmingly approved the purchase of the former Flame of Fire Covenant Church on Summer Street and create a space for the town’s seniors.
But before the senior center building became a reality, a group of concerned residents formed Abington Elderly Services, Inc. (AES), the first such organization in the Commonwealth, for the primary purpose of supplementing public services to the elder citizens of Abington.
Founding members Alice Frame, Rev. George Mill, and Lois Kelley realized that some methods of providing essential services were not always available through other channels, yet were vital to enabling seniors to remain, for as long as possible, in their own homes.
Over the years, meetings were held in a number of different locations including Frame’s home, the New England Art Building, the housing authority office at Leavitt Terrace, as well as the senior housing on Shaw Avenue before finally moving into the new Abington Senior Center. Other members in the earlier days included attorney Shawn Cotter, Kathy Kelley McDonough, Kathy Corcoran, Constance Faraday, Beverly Hall, Pat Lawton, Linda Elliot, David Klein, and current Senior Center Director Suzanne Djusberg.
Senior Luncheons which are still held today, were started by AES on Thursdays at the First Baptist Church on Adams Street with the help of school cafeteria workers who helped set up and serve. Following the meal, a guest speaker would entertain and educate diners each week.
“Seniors would arrive to the luncheon, some over an hour earlier than the 11:30 a.m. start time just to sit with their friends,” said Ann Reilly, Vice President of Abington Elderly Services. “The seniors loved it as a gathering place.”
The tradition of an annual cookout for upwards of 200 of Abington’s elders also originated with AES. Every summer, the VFW Grove was alive with music, giveaways and a BBQ meal served by town employees and local officials. This much anticipated event still happens every summer behind the Senior Center and continues to bring together the community just as it did in the beginning.
Abington’s popular Christmas House Tours were led by some of the members of AES. Funds raised from this successful holiday event went a long way to helping fund numerous projects throughout the community. The current Abington Library, the Millennium Memorial Project (Reilly field and Nisby Bandstand) and Memorial Field were all benefactors of the house tour success.
District Court Judge, Martha Ware, who was raised in Abington made several large donations to Abington Elderly Services and sat on the Board for many years.
In 2006 and 2007, with the possibility of a new senior center looming on the horizon, Reilly chaired a committee of almost 60 people and raised more than $55,000 dollars towards the new building.
Throughout the years, the group has purchased supplies, office furniture, computers and printers for numerous rooms throughout the Senior Center. AES also generously donates to many worthwhile causes, including Meals on Wheels, Breakfast with Santa, Abington Pickleball, Abington Troop 41 Boy Scouts, as well as gift cards for Abington Senior Luncheons.
“Through our benefactors, we were able to get the first van to transport the elderly to functions at the Senior Center or shopping,” explained Reilly. “The van was purchased through Midway Auto by Anderson Insulation Inc. We also had a fundraiser to supply gas, maintenance and a lift for the van to run until the town took that over.”
In addition to covering the costs for the Abington Senior Center’s webpage and the $300 monthly cost of mailing the Senior Informer; they have also funded the construction of a fitness room in the senior center named in honor of founding member Alice Frame. The state-of-the-art fitness center is complete with a treadmill, recumbent bike, Bowflex strength machine, and flat screen television.
Today, Abington Elderly Services continues their mission of advocating for its Seniors. Current members Mary Graham, Evelyn Drew, Ann Reilly, Tricia Force and Edward Reilly still make a difference after 40 years.
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation, AES provided support to the community’s elders. With an outpouring of help from local businesses, the Slaney family, citizens in town along with funding from Anderson Foundation; the Abington Elderly Meals Program was born. Meals have been provided to approximately 120 senior citizens living in Abington’s senior housing complexes of Leavitt Terrace and Blanchard Gardens.
Trucchi’s Supermarket and Martin’s Restaurant generously donated enough food to provide brunch within the two complexes. Abington Ale House prepared a chicken pie dinner with all the fixings for the residents funded by the Anderson Foundation.
Delivery of these many meals could not have been possible without many volunteers including the Graham family, Sharon Snow, Bob Bates, Jim Pappone, and Kathy Sulmonte.
“In May, a delicious spaghetti and meatball dinner was prepared by Sorelle’s Restaurant, funded by a family “paying it forward,” said Reilly.
“Understanding the need for masks for so many during this crisis, Abington residents, Paul and Sue Mollica, were able to supply elastic to people who were making masks. In appreciation of receiving this elastic for masks which was hard to come by, people left donations which Paul and Sue donated to the Abington Elderly Meals Program.
“Also their daughter, Liz Mollica, a photographer, received donations from her “Front Steps Project” which was donated to the meals project,” added Reilly.
The Abington Elderly Services group could not have accomplished all of this over the past 40-plus years without the financial support made available through numerous business organizations, private donors, bequests from several estates and the support of the community. AES is very grateful for all past and future donations as they have allowed for important programs to be initiated or continued.
To learn more about Abington Elderly Services, visit: abingtonma.gov/councilonaging.
Written by Michele Christian and Ken Coyle
IN PHOTOS: Abington Elderly Services over the years