NEW YORK -- The SAGE Center, the first full-time LGBT senior center in the U.S., opened with much fanfare and joy on Thursday in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea.
"Words can't express what having a place like this is. Because most seniors do not want to go to regular senior centers and so this is just wonderful," ceremony attendee Betty Weems told NY1.com.
SAGE board co-chair Roz Richter and SAGE executive director Michael Adams kicked off the celebration before turning the stage over to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, and Igal Jellinek, executive director of Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City.
"I think it's more significant for the people who are coming now that are people that essentially grew up at a time when it was not OK to be gay, lesbian or transgender and so for them, it's just such a relief," Barrios-Paoli said.
Guests also heard moving speeches from SAGE constituents George Stewart and Phyllis Siegal (who wed her longtime partner Connie Kopolov in July 2011 to became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in New York City) about what The SAGE Center means to them and to the LGBT community.
The SAGE Center will extend a comprehensive array of affirming services and support throughout New York City to ensure that LGBT older people can age in good health, financially secure and with broad community support. To learn more about The SAGE Center's programs and service, including daily menus, visit HERE.
"There are going to be an amazing, amazing array of programs here, everything from meals to exercise to language classes to cooking classes and so, so much more," Adams said.
The SAGE Center is located at 305 Seventh Ave. at a site owned by SAGE. The agency won a commitment of $3 million from the City Council to help buy and renovate the space. Work began in 2009, after raising additional funds from foundations and individuals.
"The truth is it's just LGBT seniors' tax dollars being given back and I think it's a small down payment if you think about how much money LGBT seniors have given to the city of New York," Quinn said.
VIDEO: NYC opens full-service LGBT senior center
About Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. With offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 21 local SAGE affiliates in 15 states and the District of Columbia.