Author Topic: A recipe for fitness, food, faith at Grace Church Van Vorst | Celebrate Joyce  (Read 1270 times)

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A recipe for fitness, food, faith at Grace Church Van Vorst | Faith Matters

Scientific research shows that the best "medicine" for senior citizens' health is any kind of exercise that gets blood flowing faster through the brain. So last Thursday when I entered the Grace Senior Center for Healthy Living, I met the healthiest 65 senior citizens in Jersey City.

They were doing their daily group exercise routine. Throughout the week, they will also do Yoga, Tai Chi and Zumba. Antoinette Mabry, 68, loves it because, "I have trouble with my legs." The retired Newark public school teacher has been coming, first in the summers and now all year round to the programs sponsored at Grace Church Van Vorst on Third and Erie Streets for 15 years.

On Saturday and Sunday, Grace Community Services (GCS), the umbrella organization that sponsors the programs, also feeds breakfast to 100 people each day.

Exercise and good nutrition make for healthy living and there is no better example than Joyce Davison, who founded these programs 25 years ago. Next Friday, Oct. 21, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Congressman Donald Payne will co-chair a birthday celebration in honor of Davison's 80th birthday.

The event will also thank Davison for her devotion to Grace Church. "That Joyce has pretty much single handedly kept it running for over 20 years is testament to what a talented powerhouse she is," said Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm, the rector of the church for the last three and one half years.

The former Quaker, who had experience in conflict resolution with two organizations, "Alternative to Violence," and "Children's Creative Response to Violence," Davison has a Ph.D. in Psychology. Worshipping at Grace for 35 years, she once mentioned to the former rector, Rev. Scott Kallstrom, about first starting the breakfast program and he said, "Go ahead." And she did.

Then five years later, she again asked Kallstrom about a senior program. Once again, he said, "Go ahead." Helen Rogers, 90, has been coming since it started. She belongs to St. Anthony's Church and lives a few blocks away on Seventh Street. When I introduced myself to her, she said, "The pastor from Holy Rosary?!" Msgr. Gerard M. Santora died 11 years ago and would have been well over 100 today. I was deflated but then thought I must look good for 110. The retired crossing guard got a chuckle out of my response.

Rogers enjoys the senior company at the program and the daily lunch, which only costs $1.25. You could see that the seniors come from all over the city, but mostly Downtown, for the other free programs. They get cooking lessons, do line dancing, learn to quilt, and do art. Mabry said she learned how to mix colors and do portraits and pictures. They listen to music and go on long and day trips.

The program costs $45,000 annually to run and the city gives a $22,000 grant. They pay rent to Grace Church. Among the other sponsors and participating institutions are the Jersey City Council, Department of Recreation and Senior Affairs, the Hudson County Office on Aging, the Jersey City Medical Center and Palisades General Hospital. Next Tuesday, there will be "Haircuts by Esther."

The following day there will be a program on breast cancer awareness. On the 25th, the JC Medical Center will teach about asthma. The next day there is a trip to Demarest Farm and the Aviation Hall of Fame.

"As I came to know the people in the Senior program I was and remain completely astonished at how many countries and cultures are represented in the gym every week day morning," said Wurm. Ramesh Shah, 74, is a Hindu and retired to the U.S. from Bombay, India, 20 years ago. He thinks the senior people he meets and all Americans are "very jolly and always smiling."

Grace Church has always been involved in the community especially from the time of the late rector, Rev. Paul Moore, who integrated the parish, fought for social justice and eventually became the Bishop of New York, the most prestigious Episcopal position in the U.S.

"Grace is a growing congregation with people of all ages. It's like a cathedral in downtown Jersey City because people come here seven days a week for worship, community, a meal, arts programming, childcare, our Sunday used book sale and to volunteer," said Wurm. And no one more active than Joyce Davison, who epitomizes the Grace spirit and has helped thousands of people through her volunteering at the church.


For more information about Grace Community Services go to website:

Grace Church Van Vorst | 39 Erie Street | Jersey City, NJ 07302

Phone: 201-659-2211

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