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  • Toby Pydych

The Benjamin Church Senior Center: A Hidden Gem in Bristol, Rhode Island

What is the Benjamin Church Senior Center?

When my colleague, Averi, and I visited the Benjamin Church Senior Center on November 15th, we were quickly greeted by a beautiful house that felt like home, a feeling created by warm greetings and faint holiday music. Returning to Benjamin Church Senior Center uncovered memories of my freshman year, over two years ago. A community service experience brought me to the senior center in Bristol during my first week here and provided me a first look into the hard work and good hearts populating our coastal town. Maria Ursini, Executive Director of the Benjamin Church Senior Center, and Donna Wilson, Assistant Director, are no exception.

Maria and Donna, both lifelong Bristol residents, feel a sense of connection to the town that drives the passion behind their work. Being able to leave a positive fingerprint means the world to the selfless Bristolians. The services they provide to the community are invaluable and the breadth of resources offered is tremendous. Whether it is delivering (especially during the pandemic) and hosting lunches, partnering with local schools to provide service opportunities, or offering transportation for seniors, the Benjamin Church Senior Center wears many hats to enhance the well-being of the Bristol community.

Seniors are often an afterthought during the holidays. The Benjamin Church Senior Center is determined to shed some much needed light on Bristol’s seniors. Their Foster a Senior program provides the community the opportunity to give back to a Bristol senior through cards, gifts, and care packages. Maria and Donna are focused on spreading love through the community with these hand-delivered presents. This program is not only a great way to show the seniors in your life that you care, but also to remember your passed loved ones through dedications to the program.

“I think each community, each town should have a foster a senior (program) ... our goal is to make sure every town has something like that for (the senior population).”

Benjamin Church Senior Center has been running the Foster a Senior program for six years now. It works closely with Community Engagement at Roger Williams University (RWU) to help get students involved in the community and with the senior center. The Benjamin Church Senior Center is a non-profit that helps others appreciate the importance of community engagement.

Partnerships with Roger Williams University

The Benjamin Church Senior Center and Roger Williams University are familiar partners. From CPC course engaged partnerships, work with the CPC Design and Research team, and community service work study students from the Feinstein Center for Service Learning, Community Engagement at RWU is proud to have paired with the local non-profit in countless ways in the past. We take pride in the important, positive nature of our local work and the Benjamin Church Senior Center is the perfect place to continue this.

In the past, the Benjamin Church Senior Center worked with Professor Alan Cutting and his CPC class to design a brand new website, increasing the community’s ability to access their resources. The senior center has also been a host for Community Connections, a program giving RWU freshmen an opportunity to give back to their community during their first week on campus. Additionally, over the COVID-19 pandemic, Roger Williams University helped to provide meals for seniors visiting the Benjamin Church Senior Center.

During this Fall 2021 semester, Benjamin Church Senior Center has been working with the CPC Design and Research team to help develop a feasibility plan for expanding their parking lot. With only five parking spaces and one handicap space, this is an essential development for the non-profit to be able to provide as much accessibility and comfort as possible to its guests. Having more parking would allow for the senior center to run more events and offer more services for the community and its seniors.

The tremendous amount and quality of work Maria, Donna, and the Benjamin Church Senior Center put forth to benefit the community is irreplaceable. The persistence and positivity of these kind folks radiates throughout Bristol and inspires others to become involved in the community, an influence that is a service in itself.

To help out with the Benjamin Church Senior Center, visit their website for more information on how to become a member, volunteer, or donate.

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