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It is my wish that, in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on 19 November … Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.”

-Pope Francis


As part of the week-long World Day of the Poor campaign, on November 13 the Diocese of Arlington Chancery and Catholic Charities staff volunteers visited St. Martin de Porres Senior Center in Alexandria. The approximately 20 volunteers heeded Pope Francis’ call and spent a few hours of encounter, friendship, and solidarity with senior citizens in the community.

St. Martin de Porres Senior Center is a special place.  Operated by Catholic Charities in partnership with the city of Alexandria, the center provides free instructor-led exercise, English as a second language classes, social and entertainment activities, health presentations, field trips, a warm meal and much more.  Most importantly, the center provides a supportive community for an isolated population.

Maria Mellor, the St. Martin de Porres Activities and Food Service Assistant, was thrilled to host the Diocesan volunteers.  According to Maria, “The essential mission of the senior center is to provide socialization. Many of our seniors live by themselves; this is their second family.”

The center’s staff, headed by Anny Coyne and Luis Angel, had planned activities, such as dominos, watercolor painting, board games, and lunch, to encourage interaction between the volunteers and approximately 55 seniors in attendance that day.

One senior, Ruth, has been coming to St. Martin de Porres for two years; in fact, she proudly stated her “anniversary” is December 7. “I came to the center reluctantly and found it difficult to get involved at first. But, Maria included me and persuaded me to participate,” Ruth said. “My favorite part of this center is the people, especially Maria, she is so interactive. Now, I miss this place when I am gone. I visited family for a week and I constantly talked about ‘The Center.’”

Monday through Friday St. Martin de Porres Senior Center hosts a variety of activities from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  To partake in the center’s free programs, an individual must be 60 years of age or older, independent, and residing within the City of Alexandria. The Division of Aging and Adult Services even provides door to door bus transportation for seniors who live in the West End of Alexandria. For more information about the center, please visit http://www.ccda.net/programs_elderly.php.

Are you interested in volunteering at St. Martin de Porres Senior Center? The center currently needs a variety of volunteers, including, kitchen helper, gardener, exercise instructor, receptionist, computer teacher, musician or entertainer, nurse, daily volunteers, and translator. To sign-up go to https://volunteer.ccda.net.