Membership up, bingo on its way at Mancini Center

Membership up, bingo on its way at Mancini Center

Kathy Walker, Jackie Gargaro, Pat Rapko and Jan Pontarelli, from left, square off in the first game of the mahjong tournament at the Salvatore Mancini Resource Center, in North Providence, on Thursday morning, June 14. Walker and Rapko are from the Lincoln Senior center, Gargaro and Pontarelli, from North Providence. The tournament pitted 34 players from the senior centers of North Providence and Lincoln against each other in a district-level match. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)
Giorgio’s goal: Make this a model statewide

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Tiles clicked and voices blurred together as 17 members of the Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center faced off against 17 members of the Lincoln Senior Center in what participants described as the state’s first senior center mahjong tournament.

Carol Desforges, a volunteer who organizes mahjong events and classes at several area senior centers, orchestrated the tournament, hosted by the Mancini Center on June 14. The room was full of members, heads bent in concentration as they vied for the trophy that would make its home in the winner’s center until next year’s tournament.

“We have all skill levels here,” Desforges said.

Ann Caputo, a member of the Mancini Center, won all four games of the first round, launching her into first place.

“The Mancini Center offers a lot,” she said. “I’ve been a member for six or seven years, and I love it. The staff is wonderful, and Carol Desforges does a great job.”

Carol Berman, another Mancini Center member, has been playing mahjong “for years.” She said, “I was actually part of the group that started mahjong here. Rosalind Lerner, who is now at a nursing home, and I began the group here.”

The tournament came at a time when membership at the Mancini Center, at 2 Atlantic Blvd., has jumped to more than 900 members, according to Director Linda Giorgio. That number grew from zero members four months ago, when The Breeze reported that staff were planning a recruitment drive after finding that membership lists had disappeared with the conversion of the center from a nonprofit facility to a town-run department.

“We expect to reach 1,000 members by the end of this month, ” Giorgio said. “We average 300 members per day walking through our doors, and our classes and events are growing more and more popular. Our goal is to reach 3,000 members by the end of 2018.”

When the Lincoln Senior Center triumphed in last Thursday’s tournament and players received their trophy, the excitement reflected the energy present throughout the Mancini Center, said Giorgio.

“Something that I think sets us apart is the consistent positive energy here,” she said. “There’s an excitement here that’s so contagious – it spreads like wildfire.”

Giorgio described how the center is assessing its new members, especially the younger generation of Baby Boomers, and developing programs that address their needs. Staff have added an additional arthritis exercise class, for example, to the list of 37 weekly classes and activities spanning music, art, games, wellness, and more.

“The entire lower floor has been fully renovated,” Giorgio added. There, a gym with bikes, an elliptical, rowers, free weights, a recumbent stair climber, and three new treadmills, are available Monday through Friday for members.

Soon, evening Bingo will return to the Mancini Center.

“We just signed the papers for the 501(c)(3) that will allow bingo to begin again,” said Mayor Charles Lombardi. Giorgio added, “We’re very excited to have bingo coming back soon. Now that we have filed all the documents, we are just waiting. Stay tuned.”

The center has a vision for the future, according to Giorgio.

“We’re fortunate to have the support of local businesses who sponsor events. We have a staff that is very confident with our instructors, volunteers, and members. Our goal is to keep our members healthy, and we do everything – every program, class, activity, and event – with them in mind,” she said.

A cardiologist is another of new additions to the center. Dr. Ibrahim Elgabry is the director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Landmark Medical Center, and will occupy a space in the lower level of the Center.

“We are really excited to have Dr. Elgabry,” said Giorgio. “As he establishes himself here, he will introduce several new resources for our members, including daily blood pressures, medical screenings, a nutritionist, a diabetes education program, and, in the future, a pharmacy.”

Staff is “just at the tip of the iceberg here,” she added. “There’s so much more we’ll be doing in the future. We’re looking to be a model for senior centers not just in Rhode Island, but also for centers around the country.”

Elgabry has a special interest in cryptogenic stroke, heart failure, arrhythmias, cardiovascular disease prevention, and community outreach and education to the senior citizen population.

According to the June newsletter, the following is the list of current staff members at the center:

• Director Linda Giorgio;

• Assistant Director Cheryl Lonardo;

• Project Manager Joseph Riccitelli;

• Receptionist Joseph Nardella;

• Maintenance Technician Rita Morrabel;

• Dining Room Manager and Transportation Director Ray D’Abate;

• And Kitchen Assistant Angela Provost.

D’Abate was previously on the board of directors at the nonprofit Mancini Center for a short time and helped negotiate a final agreement to turn over the center to the town after three years of controversy surrounding disclosure of financial information.

John Desforges, left, of the North Providence Center, was the only male in a field of 33 women to participate in the tournament at the Salvatore Mancini Resource Center in North Providence on Thursday morning. Judy Cimini, also from North Providence, is on the right.
Judy Luca, from the Salvatore Mancini Resource Center, fixes her tiles in the mahjong tournament against the Lincoln Senior Center on Thursday morning. The centers competed for bragging rights and possession of a traveling tournament trophy.
Claudia Pryor, of the Lincoln Senior Center, holds a few of her tiles as she participated in the mahjong tournament at the Salvatore Mancini Resource Center in North Providence on Thursday morning.
Mancini Resource Center Director Linda Giorgio holds the new trophy that was donated by the North Providence senior center and will travel with the winning team between North Providence and Lincoln.
Mary Kennedy, of North Providence, chats with fellow mahjong players before the tournament began.