The Johnston Senior Center (JSC) was like a Who’s Who in Rhode Island government last Thursday morning.
Per an invitation from Mayor Joseph Polisena, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, George Carvalho of U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s office and Department of Elderly Affairs Director Catherine Taylor headlined the morning gathering.
Rep. John Carnevale, Town Councilwoman Eileen Fuoco and JSC Advisory Board members Vice Chair Gilbert Botelho, Peter Quartino and Rhonda Sasa, as well as Police Chief Richard Tamburini and Captain Thomas Dolan and Tri-Town Community Action Agency CEO Joseph DeSantis, were on hand for a ceremony during which the Johnston Senior Center was officially recognized for being named as a Center of Excellence. The title comes with a five-year national accreditation.
In the middle of it all, though, was a volunteer who Executive Director Anthony Zompa said, “Is the reason we received our much-valued national accreditation.”
“Without Kathy McKeon, we never would have got the accreditation,” Zompa said. “It was her work that placed the Center on a national … list of Senior Centers.”
Zompa emphasized that national accreditation isn’t an easy thing to get, and it would not have been possible without the dedication of volunteers like McKeon.
The JSC executive director summoned McKeon to the podium to receive a plaque and flowers for her guidance through the accreditation application process.
“As I’ve said time and again, this place wouldn’t run without volunteers,” Zompa said. “Without Kathy, we wouldn’t be here today. Even when we had second thoughts about applying for national accreditation, some of us had reservations. Not Kathy; she kept driving us.”
McKeon, a resident of Cranston, is a former employee of the Department of Elderly Affairs and a good friend of Zompa’s.
“This was a three-year project. This speaks volumes of how hard Tony, Millie [Assistant Director Santilli] and the committee worked to attain national accreditation. This is truly an honor for the entire town of Johnston to have its senior center referred to as a center of excellence,” McKeon said.
Polisena believes the recognition is a point of pride for the town’s seniors who utilize the center.
“Our accreditation achievement shows just how dedicated our staff, under the direction of Tony Zompa, and the volunteers are. They strive every day to insure that our seniors have a warm and nurturing place to be,” he said. “Remember, our seniors are the foundation of our community and society. They are the ones who have made this country so great. When you hear the term ‘Made In America,’ it is because of our seniors and how they sacrificed so we could live in this great country. Our seniors have made America beautiful.”
Senior centers are an important community resource, said Lt. Governor Roberts, who sees the social, emotional and physical benefits for the seniors who visit centers like the one in Johnston.
“It provides great social interaction for our seniors. And the national accreditation is not an easy thing to get,” she said.
Johnston’s senior center, in particular, has made an impression on Mollis.
“When it comes to senior centers, Johnston is second to none,” he said. “Your center is now known as one of the best senior centers in the nation. National accreditation isn’t easy to get, so please let your friends and neighbors know what a great senior center you have here.”
Perhaps Taylor best summed up the JSC, its national accreditation and “Center of Excellence” rating.
“This is a huge big deal,” she said. “I’m so glad to see Johnston leading the way for national accreditation. This is proof of how hard the staff and valuable volunteers work here every day.”