Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari Announces Renovation at Southern Service Center in Manahawkin

Nov 08, 2017
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari takes a phone call in the kitchen of the Southern Service Center in Manahawkin between tours of the facility in 2014.

At the Oct. 24 meeting of the Stafford Township mayor and council, Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari raved about the county’s resources and services for seniors and veterans that are available at the Southern Service Center on Route 9, soon to get an extensive makeover.

He congratulated Stafford for being one of the best places to live in Ocean County. He reminded the public the county purchased the former St. Mary’s Parish Center in 2011. Since then, it has been a lifeline for seniors and veterans in need of information, assistance, food, and social and recreational opportunities. It’s in a great location, he said, close to the Garden State Parkway and the junction of Routes 72 and 9. The senior population in Ocean County is 175,000, according to Vicari, and the most important service the county provides to them is meals.

“By midsummer we’re going to have a major renovation in that area. … We’re going to make it more conducive for meeting with our senior citizens.” The project will upgrade equipment, expand services and relieve the Northern Service Center in Lakewood, he explained, and serve as an evacuation and service center in the event of an emergency.

According to Vicari, the county expects the project to go out to bid within the next few weeks. The estimated construction time is six months.

During the renovation work, the service center will remain open and the meal services will continue without interruption. “The important thing is residents will have a place to call ‘home’ for important services,” he said.

Most important, Vicari stressed, the project will enhance the county’s senior nutrition program, allow for more-efficient meal delivery and continue to ensure that no senior in Ocean County goes hungry.

The upgraded facility will include a renovated senior nutrition site that will hold over 200 people and have better storage facilities, expanded administrative space for client services and more refrigeration.

“When completed, we will see easier and better handling of food from kitchen to delivery truck to patrons,” Vicari said.

The renovation also includes lowering the ceiling of the facility and the installation of sprinklers – a major safety upgrade. The lowered ceiling will make acoustics better for older adults and at the same time create storage space to accommodate shelf-stable meals (distributed in weather emergencies or extended holidays) and paper goods.

“We distributed over 10,000 of them last year alone,” Vicari said. “We make every effort to assure our seniors do not miss a meal – no matter the weather.”

Jackie Rohan, director of senior services, said the county’s plans will consolidate staff and resources to the one location.

“At the same time, this project will create a more efficient, centralized operation, with better opportunities for cost control and decreased waste, and create one production location to enhance communication for both staff and consumers,” she said.

Community Services Inc., the county's senior meal provider, during renovations will continue to produce the meals for seniors at the Ocean County Northern Resource Center, in Lakewood. And a smaller congregate site will continue to be operated at the Southern Service Center during the work.

Over time, the offerings at the facility will change to suit the needs of the residents: specialized resources for Alzheimer’s, nursing, counseling, veterans affairs. Above all, Vicari said, Ocean County is family-oriented.

“We are committed in Ocean County, no matter what happens on a national level, we will always take care of the frail, the elderly, the disabled and, of course, our veterans. They have to know we will never let them down,” he said.

Recreation, independence and dignity are vital in the lives of seniors, as is personal interaction, Vicari said. A full-time staff person will work at the facility to answer the phone and greet walk-in visitors.

“Whatever has to be done, we will do it.”

Stay tuned for a Senior Service Expo event to be held in late spring or beginning of summer.

— Victoria Ford


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