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

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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