Benefits consultant Daryl Martino speaks with attendees at a June 21 senior fair hosted by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services at its Northeast Philadelphia Family Service Center. (Photo by Gina Christian)

More than 100 area seniors kicked off summer by getting ready for the November 2019 general election.

Philadelphia’s new touch-screen voting system was on display at archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ Northeast Family Service Center on June 21 as part of its fourth annual senior community services fair.

The center, one of five operated by Catholic Social Services (CSS) throughout Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, assists an average of 80 senior clients each week, according to administrator Beth Wood.

The gathering connected seniors to resources such as home health agencies, adult day care centers, financial and meal assistance programs, and Medicare and Medicaid benefits.


“It’s very difficult to navigate the benefits system, so we provide them with anything we can to help them,” said Wood.

Tim Dowling, chief deputy for Philadelphia commissioner Lisa M. Keeley, guided fair attendees in the use of the new voting machine, which will replace the current push-button ballots as part of a state-mandated requirement to provide a voter-verifiable paper ballot.

“It’s like ordering at Wawa,” said Dowling, adding that the machine’s large touch-screen interface generates a printed receipt that is stored after a voter’s final selections.

Joanna Alba of St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia said that the machines, which are handicap-accessible, were a “much needed” improvement.

Seniors tried out Philadelphia’s new touch-screen voting machines at a June 21 fair hosted by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services at its Northeast Philadelphia Family Service Center. (Photo courtesy of Tim Dowling)

“It will help with election honesty,” said Alba. “It’s great that Catholic Social Services offered this today.”

Manager Becky Thompson said that cultivating relationships with federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as local and regional businesses, is essential to the center’s mission.

The lineup for the fair included representatives from the Philadelphia Mayor’s office, Philadelphia City Council, Pennsylvania Senator John Sabatina, and State Reps. Kevin Boyle, Mike Driscoll and Joe Hohenstein.

Staff from Archdiocesan Catholic Housing and Community Services, Aid for Friends, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and the Philadelphia Gas Works were also on hand.

“The more resources seniors have, the better,” said Thompson.

Boxed lunches, raffles, bingo and live entertainment by singer Jackie Dee rounded out the day, which also provided much-needed socialization, said Wood.

“A lot of them, once they leave here, go home, and there isn’t anyone else there,” she said. “So this is a place they can come and socialize, whether it’s bingo, tai-chi, Zumba or just gathering and talking to neighbors that they haven’t seen in a while.”

Volunteers Angie Stott and Colleen Danko agreed that the center’s welcoming atmosphere makes it a senior hotspot.

“Everything is here,” said Danko, a member of Annunciation Ukrainian Catholic Church in Melrose Park.

“It’s so needed,” said Stott, a member of St. Cecilia’s Parish in Philadelphia. “This is perfect, one-stop shopping.”