NEIGHBORS THEN AND NOW: MARIE SCAFIDI AND KAY BARKSDALE LIVE THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD AT JACKSON PLACE

Lifelong South Philly residents Marie Scafidi and Kay Barksdale feel right at home at Jackson Place as they still live in the heart of their community.

When the light switch to the community room at Jackson Place flicked on and residents Marie Scafidi and Kay Barksdale sat down across from one another at a table to chat, nothing was out of the ordinary. They’re neighbors on the fifth floor at Jackson Place and chat like this all the time, just like they used to chat with their neighbors when everyone sat outside on their porches on nice days in their native South Philadelphia.

Marie and Kay talk about anything that comes to mind – their families, their faiths, what’s good on television these days, life in the old neighborhood. The list could go on and on.

But as they chatted on this March afternoon, the two friends found out something new about each other – they never realized until this moment just how close they used to live to one another for years and years in South Philly.

“Wait, Kay, you were always my neighbor! Oh my goodness!” said Marie, who made her home on S. 9th Street. “I never saw you! Why didn’t you walk up my street and say hi so I had somebody to talk to?”

“I would have! How was I supposed to know?” said Kay, who made her home at 12th and Ellsworth Streets, as the two ladies shared a hearty laugh.

Within the last decade, the two lifelong South Philly residents moved into Jackson Place. Located at 5th and Jackson Streets in the heart of South Philly, Jackson Place is a Presby’s Inspired Life-sponsored Affordable Housing community that offers 66 units of HUD-PRAC Affordable Housing to older adults.

“When you get to talk to people, look, we found out we were really neighbors,” Marie said.

“That’s good, old South Philly and I would never leave it,” Kay said. “I wouldn’t leave on my own. I’d probably be kicking and screaming!”

The two good friends and now actually neighbors took two very different paths to the fifth floor at Jackson Place.

Marie spent her professional days as a beautician before retiring to her South Philly home to help take care of her grandchildren and her ailing father.

Though her father’s health was failing, he still enjoyed getting out and going to different events around the South Philly community, as he had when he was still able to do things on his own.

While caring for him, Marie and her father still lived at the house on S. 9th Street. Marie did not want to put the house up for sale while her father was ill, but she knew the time would eventually come when the house would be too much for her on her own.

After her father unfortunately passed away, Marie remembered a conversation she had with a local woman at the community center. That woman lived at Jackson Place.

“One of the women there at the community center, she had lived here and mentioned to me that I should fill out an application, which I did,” Marie recalled.

“When I came, they took me up to see one of the apartments and I’ll never forget it. When I got out of the apartment, I said, ‘Dear God, please, if you get me in there, I’ll never ask you for another thing!’ I thought, please, just grant me this one wish.

“The street where I was taking care of my father, where we lived and where I raised my children had changed so much. No one sat outside any more with the beach chairs. I would sit on the top step of my porch and think, please, let somebody pass by so I could talk. … This place called me, I sold the house and I was right in here in a week.”

Widowed by the age of 25, Kay spent most of her days raising her children on her own while taking on a handful of part-time clerical jobs here and there.

But Kay always had a burning desire to become a nurse and help those in need. With her children grown and the time right, Kay did eventually go to nursing school and graduated from Thomas Jefferson University with her nursing degree at the age of 50.

“You had a lot of young people there who may think you’re not so smart until you take the test,” Kay said with a chuckle. “Then they realize this old lady may know what she’s doing here!”

For 12 years, Kay lived her dream of becoming a nurse before retiring. After retirement, taking care of a house on her own just became too much for Kay to handle.

“I told my kids, ‘Look, when I’m 62, I’m going to sell this house and move into a senior place.’ Because it’s hard taking care of a house. Once I turned 62, I decided to sell the house.”

Marie and Kay are two of the more outspoken residents at Jackson Place.

They aren’t afraid to speak up on a topic they feel passionate about during a tenants meeting and they won’t hesitate to walk into the manager’s office for a conversation if they feel the need to do so.

But the common theme is that both always have the residents’ best interest in mind.

“And that’s what you want from your residents,” Arlishia Fields, the manager at Jackson Place said. “These two ladies aren’t afraid to tell me like it is. And I know I can go to them if I need an honest opinion on something. That’s what you want as a manager.”

Both ladies enjoy their time and company at Jackson Place. They get along great with the team members, including Arlishia. And they enjoy the independence that comes with living there.

But most of all, both are thankful to live in such a place within South Philly, a neighborhood neither has ever had the desire to leave.

“I believe older adults should be around other adults if they can be,” Marie said. “We’re all the same in here. We’re all in the same position and around the same age. We all have something in common.

“I’m not going to say I didn’t love my home. I had a beautiful home and raised my children there. But that was then. Now, in this part of my life, I’m just as happy as I was back then.

“I have all my people and friends I can come down and talk with. It’s like my old neighborhood, just with everybody in one building here.”

As for Kay…

“I think this is the best place to be for me. Actually, I don’t think it. I know it.”

Located in the heart of South Philadelphia at 5th and Jackson Streets, Jackson Place, which opened in 2004 and is sponsored by Presby’s Inspired Life, is a community that offers 66 units of HUD-PRAC Affordable Housing.