HomeNewsA night to remember

A night to remember

Brad S. and Samantha Warner, a quality improvement specialist at NHS Human Services, make a grand entrance at the summer gala. KEVIN COOK / FOR THE TIMES

For residents of NHS Human Services, a summer gala at the Pen Ryn Estate was the perfect opportunity to step out in style.

Bill Grinevicius looked sharp in his black tuxedo one night last week at the Pen Ryn Estate’s Belle Voir Manor.

Grinevicius, 30, is one of 100 residents of the NHS Human Services Woodhaven Campus at 2900 Southampton Road. The residents have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On June 22, they joined 100 staff members at a summer gala. Grinevicius took plenty of pictures of the festivities and presented a gift to Joe Rocks, chairman and CEO of the agency since 2000.

What does he like about the evening?

“All kinds of stuff,” he said. “The food is good, and I get to dance with Miss Paula Nerone.”

Nerone, executive director of the Woodhaven Campus, said the agency thinks the event is a treat for the residents, who often take trips to the mall and movie theaters.

At the gala, they got to spend a night at a fancy venue on State Road, near the Delaware River in Bensalem.

“It gives these adults the opportunity to dress up and go to a summer gala. It gets them out, and they enjoy beautiful, historic Pen Ryn on the Delaware,” Nerone said.

The non-profit human-services provider has a 72-acre site on Southampton Road. The campus opened in 1994.

The agency, in business for more than 40 years, is much larger, operating in seven states. It employs more than 13,000 people and cares for 50,000-plus adults and children.

The gala resembled a prom.

Some of the guests even arrived in limousines, and everyone entered the building on a red carpet, with paparazzi snapping pictures.

There was a sit-down dinner, dancing, staff awards, a guest sign-in book and raffle drawings.

Some guests rented tuxedos. Others bought new shoes, suits and dresses. The ladies had their hair and nails done. All wore medals around their necks.

Each table had a disposable camera for guests to capture special moments.

The residents presented Terry McNelis, vice president of intellectual and developmental disabilities, with the Superstar Award trophy.

“It’s all about them,” McNelis said, in describing the scene. “They love to get dressed up, dance and enjoy themselves.”

The gala has been held for about a decade. This was the second year at Pen Ryn, with past celebrations held in the Woodhaven Campus gym and at local union halls.

Rocks spent a career in politics before joining the agency. He is a former state representative and state senator who was the Republican candidate for city controller in 1989 and mayor in 1995.

Grinevicius presented him with framed overhead pictures of Philadelphia and the Woodhaven Campus. The shots were taken during a recent helicopter trip taken by the resident.

Rocks was impressed with the sharply dressed guys and gals.

“The hairdos aren’t too bad either,” he said.

Rocks, who attended with his wife Liz, entertained the crowd with a rendition of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love.

The prom, like the everyday services at the Woodhaven Campus, is designed to improve the residents’ quality of life.

“It’s pretty special to see the consumers celebrate themselves and their lives,” Rocks said.

Although Rocks came up short in his mayoral bid to lead Philadelphia, a pretty nice consolation prize followed a few years later.

“The best thing to happen to me was to become leader of NHS,” he said. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com

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