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Rutherford Center For Seniors Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Sadie Gattuso, seated, and Executive Director Peggy Letsche, second from right, with 55 Kip Center members. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Members Betty, left, and Alice run the gift shop. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

RUTHERFORD, N.J. — What began as a weekly lunch program for seniors at a local parish house in 1985 is now a nonprofit organization bustling with people who call it their home away from home.

55 Kip Center has its 30th Anniversary Celebration scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15, at the San Carlo in Lyndhurst.

“There are some people that don’t have any families, so they come here and this is their family,” said borough resident Kathleen Potor, who joined 55 Kip Center when she retired in 2000.

Potor comes twice a week for aerobics classes, to have her vitals checked and to reconnect over lunch and card games with people she met at her children's sporting events decades ago.

The first aerobics classes only had about 10 people when Executive Director Peggy Letsche taught them in the early 1990s. 

The ladies told their friends about it -- and by the time that 55 Kip Center moved into its new facility on the first level of the Kip Avenue Parking Garage in 1995, classes were bursting at the seams.

“Over the course of the day we’re an assembly line,” said Letsche, a longtime borough resident. “As one class is coming out another one is going in. You can’t hear yourself think in the hall.”

55 Kip Center uses its cafeteria for exercise classes, guest lecturers and other programs to promote the well-being of older adults.

The facility has a library, computers, a member-run gift shop and nurse’s office, where seniors can talk to professionals and have their vitals checked weekly.

All know that they can reach out for help with anything they need -- like when 90-year-old borough resident Sadie Gattuso was stranded on Union Avenue after what she described as a particularly upsetting doctor's appointment last week.

Assistant Director Charlene Mariano calmed her down and picked her up within five minutes.

“I’ve always loved my Kip Center," Gattuso said, "but now I adore my Kip Center.”

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