Story #55 Solomon Smart

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Solomon Smart, Program Director at East Concourse Senior Center, has worked for BronxWorks for twenty years. "Who knew time could go so fast," he says. He loves working with the seniors. "Some days I am DJing a party, some days I am serving lunch, some days I am mopping the floors...but in general, I am just making sure the seniors are enjoying teir time here and that it is as fulfilling for them as possible," Solomon says. Solomon's first two jobs after graduating from Cornell University were also at BronxWorks. In 1997 he worked as an organizer for the Community Building Project, a partnership with BronxWorks (then the Citizens Advice Bureau) and nine other local organizations (the project has since discontinued). In 2001, Solomon joined the Homelessness Prevention Program in the Family Eviction Prevention Supplements (FEPS) program and assisted people on public assistance with arrears. He began working at the East Concourse Senior Center in 2004, which he says is the best job he has ever had.
 
One of the highlights of Solomon's time at East Concourse so far was attending a play put on by the seniors in partnership with the Pregones Theater. "Where Did She Go" was written by Viola Harris, one of the seniors at the Center. Originally a poem, the play was about a woman regaining her sense of identity. The seniors translated it together, and half of the play was performed in English and half was in Spanish.
 
"Everyone in the theater understood exactly what the play was about and related to it, it didn't matter what your background was or what language you spoke, you just understood," Solomon says. "It was the first time the seniors came together from both languages, both cultures...those are the kind of things that make this time what it is," he added.
 
Solomon fosters that sense hopefulness and positivity in his office. His door is open, and seniors always say hello as they walk into the Center. When facing obstacles at work, Solomon remains positive. "I just handle it. It is not a burden for me," he says. 
 
East Concourse is one of four BronxWorks Senior Centers, which Solomon describes as "hidden corners"-some of the agency's best kept secrets. The role of a senior center is "to draw out what is already there. The well is deep," he says. Solomon is truly as inspired as he is inspiring. 
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