West Phila. seniors donate money to shelter

By Samaria Bailey, Philadelphia Tribune
June 24, 2015

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Seniors from West Philadelphia’s Renaissance Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center donated more than $1,000 to neighboring shelter, Families Forward, earlier this month.

The seniors, nine men and women, raised the money with a Dance-A-Thon they hosted on June 3. The money raised will be used to support after-school programming for youth at the Families Forward shelter.

“It’s so inspiring — just to see these folks, just to see their faces light up — knowing they helped the kids in our care,” said Diana McWilliams, Families Forward executive director. “It’s inspiring to see the next generation wanting to give back.”

The $1,017 that the seniors gave pushed Families Forward closer to its $15,000 goal. At press time, they’d raised $2,800.

Some of the seniors said they were glad to help.“I [fund-raised] because I live here and I like to be a helping hand,” said Triphena Stevenson, a Renaissance senior. “I like to be active and help people because at one time people had to help me and my family. Who am I not to help anyone?” Stevenson added that she also enjoyed the Dance-A-Thon.“I had fun. I was dancing the Twist. I love dancing — I am a people person.”

Timothy McCracken, the Renaissance Director of Recreation Services, said they’ve donated to Families Forward before. In 2013, they gave school supplies to the youth. He said the center encourages the seniors to stay involved with the community.

“A lot of people, when they move into an institutional setting, lose a sense of purpose,” McCracken said. “The challenge is providing an opportunity where they are given a chance to make a difference. [So] we try to spend a lot of time stressing that they have a purpose … that, in this community if [they] see things that trouble [them] they can participate in a fundraiser or a meeting.”

McCracken said the Dance-A-Thon was a two-hour plus marathon that included such dances as the Wobble and the Cupid Shuffle.

Some of the seniors got their hair and makeup done before the event and when they arrived, the dance room was decorated with disco lights, a fringe curtain and a VIP area. In order to dance with the seniors, participants had to pledge a donation. The seniors also solicited donations a full week prior to the event, from friends, families and staff.