People often say that home is where the heart is. And while loved ones come and go, it’s the memories that stick with you.
For MEND resident Melva Gilanyi, 85, this couldn’t ring more true.
Melva first heard of MEND back when they were transforming The Duffy School, a 19th century elementary school, into what is now residential apartment units in the quiet suburban town of Florence, NJ.
“Around that time, I was looking to downsize and leave my condo,” said Melva. “I heard about the renovations to the school and became interested. I had actually originally applied to live at the Springside apartments in Burlington Township a year before the Duffy School apartments were finished, but I knew I wanted to be in Florence.”
Once opened, residents came flooding in fast, but luckily a place opened up for Melva, and her granddaughter graciously moved into her condo. Melva will have been living in the Duffy apartments for four years this June. However, her history with Duffy dates back much further.
“I went to high school at Duffy. I graduated here. It’s comfortable and familiar to me.”
Even more intimate for Melva, the Duffy School is where she met her husband.
“We met at the school, graduated together, fell in love and got married. This place has a lot of history for me. He died 25 years ago, but it felt right to move back and have his memory live on.”
The sense of family has not diminished for Melva.
“My family will come over to visit me or pick me up to go out. We often have family dinners on Sunday, so they’ll come here and cook in my kitchen.”
Every Christmas, Melva hosts her family for a holiday party in the downstairs auditorium – a space saved from the original Duffy School – to accommodate for her large family. Large it is – Melva has eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren!
It’s not just family that keeps Melva occupied; friends are everywhere you turn in the Duffy apartments.
“I’ve made great friends here,” said Melva. “We’ll take a drive to do something fun or go out to dinner. On Friday, we have bingo with dollar items that we can win. Saturday nights are for movies and potlucks and on Sundays, a group of us will go to church.”
There are 53 units comprising the Duffy School apartments. Most of the tenants are widows, but Melva remarks that’s it hard to feel lonely.
“There’s no shortage of fun and engaging things to do here.”
Still, Melva values her freedom and likes to live independently. MEND certainly make it easier for her to be comfortable on her own.
“The staff takes very good care of the apartments, both inside and outside. I can relax a bit more because I feel safe in this environment.”
When asked what MEND means to her, Melva spoke from her heart.
“I’m lucky to be living in such a safe and beautiful place that’s close to my family. It brings back a lot of happy memories for me. I plan on staying here for as long as I can.”