On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 13, if you were anywhere other than Westminster Presbyterian Church for the first anniversary celebration of the DC Waterfront Village, you missed out. Any stranger strolling by would have every clue: “There’s A Party Goin’ On.” Walk-ins were welcome in addition to the 100-plus people who had registered. The place was filled to capacity.
Fourteen exhibitors, ranging from Georgetown Home Care to A First Class Move to District Hardware and Bike, along with other types of senior living resources, offered their services to attendees. From stem to stern, Westminster took on the navigational facade of sailing and boating. Sparkling white harbor lights and more than 100 tiny sailboats were hung from the walls to illustrate Waterfront Village’s theme: navigating together. Outside, luminaries lined the sidewalk to the church, and near the entrance, hot cider was offered to wash away the chill of the evening.
“We are completely overcome with this outpouring of support from the community,” said Executive Director Bob Craycraft. “This is an important year for us. We have reached our milestone goal of 100 member households and made great strides in our services, along with scores of programs and activities to prevent social isolation.”
During the program, the stage resembled a coming together of Southwest DC’s own luminaries. The welcome was by Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Washington, one of the major anniversary sponsors, along with JBG Smith. Ratner Saltzberg said the Village offered the kind of services that her late mother-in-law would have relished, such as the weekly trips to the grocery store. “The concept is great, and there are so many services and activities provided through Waterfront Village for people aging in place or full of vigor and activity.”
The opening address was given by DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. “This is the place where there ought to be a senior Village because as the neighborhood comes alive in so many ways, the last thing we want to do is see people who have lived in this neighborhood, made it grow, leave just as the neighborhood itself is growing,” she said. “So it means a great deal to me that you have created a senior Village right here in Southwest Washington.”
Councilmember Charles Allen reflected on the two areas in which the District is growing—the under-35s but also the 55- and 65-year-olds. “I see the Villages as a way to make sure that not only are we attractive places for older neighbors, older residents to move into the District, but also [shows] how we keep our populations and our neighbors right here in our neighborhoods and our communities.”
Commissioner Andy Litsky, who has been a longtime supporter of getting the Village off the ground, said, “Southwest has a very long history of taking care of its own and that’s what the Village is all about—neighbors helping neighbors.”
Guests enjoyed plates of meatballs (both meat and vegetarian), speared roasted vegetables, spinach and feta spanakopita, sautéed shrimp served in tortilla cup/chip boats, and eggplant caviar crostini, along with wine. Champagne was served to toast the first anniversary as were slices of the theme-designed sheet cake.
Waterfront Village is one of the newest and fastest growing Villages in the District. It is among 12 Villages organized by neighborhood. Villages work together, with their executive directors meeting monthly to share ideas and exchange information.
Villages are not places where seniors move. Instead, Villages are communities where neighbors enroll as volunteers to help their more senior neighbors who are having trouble navigating daily chores. The goal of the national Village movement is to help seniors age in their own homes and in their own communities as long as they can safely do so.
Waterfront Village met its first year membership goals as well as providing the aid and companionship that help members thrive. Its services are tracked monthly. Members have access to all services, such as friendly home visits and transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other activities. There are weekly restaurant outings, a book club, trips to recognized local sites including the Archives, Mt. Vernon, Arena Stage, the Wharf, sunset cruises, and other spots around the city. Many of Waterfront’s senior citizens have children in other states or friends in the same condition, and require the services of a Village to meet their needs and allow them to stay in their own homes.
Waterfront Village’s next big expansion is to the Navy Yard and its residents. It is a huge undertaking, but Craycraft is completely optimistic.
“We organized as the [Southwest] Waterfront and the Navy Yard, and I believe putting our resources into the next phase of expansion will grow our membership and provide needed services. The Navy Yard has great potential, and we want to bring these two neighborhoods close together in a spirit of community.”
Founding President Barbara Ehrlich concluded the evening. “So we’ve come a long way in one year. We want to grow bigger and better, and we want to serve all of us the way we want to be served—with kindness, thoughtfulness, and love.”
For more information, go to DC Waterfront’s website: www.dcwaterfront.org. Join, become a volunteer, or make a financial contribution. All donations are tax-deductible.
By: Sharon Flynn