History of Change
In 1978, a small group of visionary citizens of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods formed “Seniors Onward for Change”. The founders envisioned an organization that would be a one-stop shop for an array of services that would help residents remain in their own homes with dignity. The cornerstone programs, originally funded by grants, were Food and Friendship, Minor Home Repair and Chores, Senior Citizens Information and Meals at Home services. Initially, these programs were separately run and separately located at Parcells, Ferry and Brownell schools.
In 1982, SOC changed its name to Services for Older Citizens and began to coordinate all senior served under one organization. In 1984, SOC moved all programs into Ferry School in Grosse Pointe Woods.
By 1991, SOC had outgrown its home at Ferry School and moved its operations to Barnes School in Grosse Pointe Woods. By 2000, SOC’s expansion of services required another move, this time to the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe. The Neighborhood Club location offered more parking, larger activity areas and more office space for the growing number of staff and volunteers.
The relocation to the Neighborhood Club enabled SOC to dramatically expand and improve one of its largest and most critically needed programs: Meals on Wheels. When federal and state funding cuts resulted in long waiting lists for Meals on Wheels throughout the Detroit area, SOC stepped forward to provide hot meals through its own Meals on Wheels program using the Neighborhood Club’s kitchen facilities. The move also enabled SOC to provide professional social work services, assisted transportation to doctors’ offices and grocery stores, a medical loan closet, tax and Medicare assistance, volunteer yard clean up and other needed services.
The Present and Future
Today, SOC serves more than 9,000 of the 11,000 seniors throughout in our community. And the need for SOC’s services will continue to grow. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) studies predict that the senior population in Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods will double in the next 20 years. Seniors are living longer than ever before and their needs and interests are changing. As seniors enjoy a more active lifestyle, exercise classes, computer training, and other programs to enhance their lifestyles have become more important. As the only community organization focused exclusively on helping seniors remain in their homes with dignity, SOC realized that it would need a permanent home to meet both the present and future needs of our community. At the same time, the Neighborhood Club embarked on a plan to demolish its existing facilities and construct a new building to better suit its needs. SOC was going to be without a home.
Into the breach stepped Henry Ford Medical Center – Cottage which offered to give SOC a long-term lease on the former the Newberry House nurses’ residence for a nominal sum and give SOC a home at Cottage Hospital during reconstruction of its new home. While the Newberry House was a beautiful, well-built building, it needed extensive renovations to serve as a senior center, including new windows, an elevator, new bathrooms, a kitchen, new heating and cooling systems, and new plumbing and electrical systems. In short, the building needed to be gutted. With the expert assistance of Chris Blake and the Blake Construction Company, SOC embarked on a plan to turn the beautiful shell into a functioning home. But, before we could begin, we needed to raise almost $3 million dollars.
Spurred by a major gift by the John A. and Marlene L. Boll Foundation, the community demonstrated its belief in SOC’s mission through its generosity and construction began. Today, the John A. and Marlene L. Boll House has become the focal point of senior activities in our community, serving hundreds of seniors every day.