Andre Krug, president and CEO of KleinLife, says he wants it to become the center of the community.
Andre Krug became program director at KleinLife (formerly Klein JCC) in 2000 and president and CEO in 2009.
The two-floor KleinLife building at 10100 Jamison Ave. is gigantic at 110,000 square feet.
The Ukraine-born Krug, 47, also oversees KleinLife properties in Rhawnhurst, Center City and Elkins Park.
Krug, who began his career as an accountant for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, noticed a declining Jewish population in the neighborhoods served by the Jamison Avenue facility. That trend resulted in the closing of the David G. Neuman Senior Center in Castor Gardens in 2004, with clients directed to the Jamison Avenue site.
Still, KleinLife continues to serve big numbers of Jewish people of all ages.
“From 2 to 102,” Krug said.
Yet, folks from more than 50 countries make up today’s membership. Cultural classes are available for immigrants, and Krug serves as a member of state Rep. Martina White’s opioid committee, hoping to steer immigrants and others away from addictive drugs.
“We serve a diverse population,” Krug said. “We appeal to immigrant groups. We integrate them into our programs.”
A lot of immigrants from the former Soviet Union live in the 19115 and 19116 ZIP codes, near the Jamison Avenue center. They are complemented by Brazilians, Koreans, Indians, Chinese, Central Asians and Muslims.
“You name it. It fascinates me on a daily basis. We have an environment they perceive as friendly and non-threatening,” Krug said. “We’re trying to become a microcosm of the Northeast and reflect the change in demographics. We go with the flow. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re trying to be the center of the community.”
KleinLife’s Jamison Avenue center is open seven days a week. Doors open at 7 a.m. and don’t close until about 10 p.m. As many as 2,200 people come through the doors each day.
Young people are a big part of the population. There’s a preschool, after-school program and camp.
“We have a huge waiting list,” Krug said.
Offerings geared to people 60 and older include a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a dentist, a podiatrist, fitness programs, healthcare classes, free and discounted lunches and socialization opportunities.
“We’re the largest senior center in the city of Philadelphia,” Krug said.
Balance programs are also an important part of keeping older people healthy.
“You’re one fall away going from being completely independent to homebound. We don’t want that to happen,” Krug said.
There are countless other programs that attract people.
A diabetes management program. In-home support. Meal deliveries to the homebound. The RSVP volunteer program made up of senior retirees. Bereavement groups. Vision care. A Holocaust museum. Health fairs. Town hall meetings with elected officials. Church and synagogue services. Dance recitals. Two full gyms. Basketball leagues. A gymnastics school. A walking track. A computer room.
On March 22, KleinLife will host Martina White’s community forum on opioids.
“We try to have as many vital services as we can under one roof,” Krug said. “It’s interesting. It seems to be basic on the surface, but there’s a much deeper meaning trying to keep people independent and healthy. Everything we do has a wellness aspect.”
Many of those offerings take place in the 400-seat theater.
“It’s my pride and joy,” Krug said.
Krug believes that the focus on health eases the burden on the medical system.
“Centers like this provide a huge value,” he said.
And if anyone believes there is no poverty in the Northeast, KleinLife’s busy food pantry would say otherwise. Krug doesn’t want to see anyone choose between food and medication.
“You can pick and choose what you would like to have,” Krug said of the food pantry.
Overall, KleinLife likes to foster a warm and fuzzy environment rather than a business atmosphere.
Krug enjoys reading member surveys, especially when clients describe KleinLife as “my home away from home.” ••