On Saturday, Nov. 6, Dr. Santo A. Grande, president and CEO of Delmarva Community Services, gathered with the community he’s served for 46 years in front of the building he long envisioned bringing to life.
Exuding his trademark amiable spirit, Grande thanked all those who had worked tirelessly to help bring the longstanding project to life as the newly completed The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Intergenerational Center at Chesapeake Grove.
Others addressing the crowd prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony returned the favor, applauding Grande’s unrelenting efforts to forge a model hailed as the first of its kind on Delmarva to meet the needs of seniors, youngsters, those with disabilities, and the community at large.
Bringing Delmarva Community Services and Delmarva Works programs under one roof, the center’s multi-space areas also include care for approximately 60 community children from 0-5 years old, seniors and individuals with disabilities in one location.
Following an innovative break with traditional institutional settings, the 42,000-square-foot building’s layout follows models found elsewhere in the U.S. found to be therapeutic and beneficial, according to Grande. The center’s design and engineering focused on creating a sense of welcoming, encouraging spontaneous interactions, conveying a community-like feeling, creating new opportunities for senior activities and interests, and fostering a family atmosphere among its staff and visitors, Grande added.
Designated amenities include an onsite gift shop featuring handmade crafts created by program participants, a masseuse, salon/barber shop, computer lab, meditation room, health center, and multiple activity rooms, including three board rooms available to community and business groups. A full commercial kitchen will service daily meals at the center, plus cook and package the 300 individual meals that DCS delivers daily throughout Dorchester and Talbot counties.
The center is expected to offer up to 50 new permanent job opportunities including food service workers, instructors for activities, professional jobs, such as social workers, directors of childcare programs, maintenance, and CNAs.
Mary Handley, senior program manager at DCS, lauded Grande as a mentor herself and many staff members. Noted Dorchester educator William Batson, DCS board president, offering up thanks for the day’s “bountiful harvest and blessings,” commended Grande, saying, “I’ve learned a lot from him over the years,” even as Grande thanked Batson for his example of perseverance in overcoming life’s obstacles.
Kelly McDonald, representing the McDonald Family Foundation, noted that Grande’s commitment to helping others reminded her of similar values shared by her late father.
State Senator Addie Eckardt harkened back to the beginning of Grande’s community vitalization efforts, fondly recalling that “we all started together in the basement of a Baptist church,” and marveling at how much had been accomplished over the years, thanks to his vision and dogged persistence. “Many people lose heart along the way. But he continues to live the example of what it takes to change lives and a community. Building the building is just one part, the journey has just started,” Eckardt added.
Eckardt also applauded the critical leadership of Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, saying, “Your presence here today speaks loudly and clearly of your commitment.” In introducing Rutherford, Mary Handley thanked him and the Governor, noting that they “did not forget our state’s rural communities.”
Rutherford remembered that it was just under five years to the day since he’d attended the groundbreaking ceremony at the Chesapeake Avenue site behind DCS headquarters.
He told the crowd that, beyond seeing the brick-and-mortar building rise, he could see encouraging possibilities as young people and “more seasoned people” shared the space, providing pathways between the generations, and a means of sharing the history of this region.
The center’s dedication also provided an opportunity to recognize those not present physically but close in spirit. Grande gave thanks to late board contributor Joe G. Coyne, who had passed away in 2019. Dr. William E. Bair, who contributed the center’s towering atrium clock in honor of his parents, spoke movingly of the example of their lives. Dr. Hubert Fiery paid tribute to his in-laws, in whose honor the new children’s wing has been named.
Before finally picking up the giant blue scissors to snip the red ribbon across the center’s front entry, Grande gave special thanks to his family for “living this journey” with him, and joyously shouted out greetings to longstanding members of the DCS family in the audience. Cell phone cameras rose everywhere to capture the moment as the crowd counted down 5-4-3-2-1, erupting in applause and celebratory shouts of joy as the ribbon gave way and Chesapeake Grove’s doors opened.
Guests entered the lobby/coffee bar area and proceeded through the airy atrium en route to the event dining center for refreshments and fellowship. A modernistic double-sided fireplace added an ambient glow also visible in the adjoining sunroom, which also provided an excellent view of the outdoor playground and adult fitness area.
DCS staff led tours of the two-story building. Young and old appreciated the elevator access but also seemed to enjoy exploring the innovative wrap-around ramp leading to the upper level. As Grande made his way about the building, he was stopped every few steps along the way by well-wishers wanting to shake his hand and have their picture taken with him, which he graciously accommodated.
For additional information about the Intergenerational Center, visit here or contact Mary Handley at 410-221-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.