Services for Older Citizens opens its doors at its own building

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 11, 2013

 Services for Older Citizens’ officials, board members and supporters gather for a ribbon-cutting during the grand opening of the new building June 7.

Services for Older Citizens’ officials, board members and supporters gather for a ribbon-cutting during the grand opening of the new building June 7.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — From some of the area’s older residents to children from Maire Elementary School, the hundreds gathered for the public grand opening of Services for Older Citizens’ new home June 7 represented the community as a whole.

“Today marks the end of a very long journey for SOC,” SOC board Chair Bill Champion told attendees, discussing the nonprofit’s longstanding dream of having its own building. “(And) today is the beginning of a new journey for SOC. This beautiful, historic building has been modernized and renovated to meet the needs of seniors for a long time to come.”

Organizers estimated that more than 500 people were on hand for the ribbon-cutting and ceremony marking the opening of SOC’s first permanent, standalone building, at 158 Ridge Road, inside the remodeled Newberry Nurse’s Residence.

“This is a center that will be enjoyed by so many people,” Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano told attendees.

A beaming SOC Executive Director Sharon Maier said, with their new home, SOC plans to expand its offerings, initially by featuring formerly weekly activities on a daily basis and formerly monthly activities on a weekly basis. Residents are urged to suggest programs, as well, and there will be suggestion boxes in each of the activity rooms, she said.

“We’re open to all of these new ideas to keep new people, different people, coming,” Maier said. “We just want to do what the community wants.”

There are an estimated 10,000-11,000 seniors in the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods, SOC’s coverage area.

“It’s a really big population, and they have a variety of needs,” Maier said.

Addressing the crowd, Maier recalled caring for her wheelchair-bound mother — who had multiple sclerosis — after her father died when she was 15.

“Dignity and respect — that’s what I wanted for my mom, and that’s what I want for everyone who enters those doors,” she said.

This project is expected to strengthen SOC’s ability to keep seniors independent.

“It’s a great place to live, and you can stay in your home,” said Capital Campaign Committee Chair Sue Davies of SOC’s east-side base.

The facility was re-christened the John A. and Marlene L. Boll Building in honor of the philanthropic Grosse Pointe Shores couple, whose initial offer to match gifts dollar for dollar up to $500,000 got the major fundraising rolling last June.

“We were just so pleased to be a part of it because we both know what SOC has done for the community,” Marlene Boll said. “And with this facility, they can do so much more.”

The Bolls said they’ve been blessed in their lives, and they want to share those blessings with others.

“We can’t tell you how proud and pleased we are to be a part of this great happening,” John Boll told attendees.

SOC leaders also acknowledged the generosity of Henry Ford Health System, whose gift of the building for at least the next 30 years enabled SOC to obtain its own building for the first time in its 35-year history. Ryan Christensen, the administrator of Henry Ford Health Services-Cottage and the nearby Pierson Clinic, said having SOC as a neighbor is an ideal fit. At press time, American House Senior Living Communities was working on a project to create senior apartments on the second and third floors of Cottage.

“We wanted this campus to really be something special,” Christensen said. “I think all three organizations have a similar vision and mission and values. … I really think we can do great new innovative things for seniors in the community.”

Mary Matta, of Grosse Pointe Park, who volunteered at the former Cottage Hospital for 20 years, said SOC is “a good outlet” for seniors, and it provides needed help such as meals for those who don’t or can’t cook or shop for their meals.

And while SOC’s supporters may be excited about the facility, local seniors are even more delighted with it.

“It’s beautiful,” said Mary Graziani, of Harper Woods.

Friend Sally Keisic, also of Harper Woods, agreed, saying, “It’s gorgeous.”

“I’m looking forward to some of the trips they’re offering,” she continued. “Their teas were always nice (too).”

Renata Simone, of Harper Woods, said she was most looking forward to “the yoga program” for seniors at SOC.

SOC called the Neighborhood Club home for 10 years, during the tenure of former Neighborhood Club Executive Director John Bruce.

“I thought I knew about the work they do, but I didn’t,” said Bruce. “It’s not just about the people you see — it’s the seniors (they assist) you don’t see.”

Harper Woods Mayor Ken Poynter said SOC achieves its goals with its “fantastic staff,” and he praised the new facility.

“We have a high percentage of senior citizens in Harper Woods, and it will help to service them more effectively and efficiently,” he said.

Harper Woods City Manager Randy Skotarczyk said SOC has long provided crucial programs to seniors.

“SOC has been an invaluable asset to the community to help our seniors with home repairs and home visits,” he said. “Their services are well beyond the scope of what the city can do. What a wonderful (new) facility, and what a great job they’ve done.”

To donate or for more information about SOC, call (313) 882-9600 or visit