Rafael Reyes is happy in his new abode at NCC Douglas Homes and his enthusiasm overflows.
A resident of 15 Hill St. in Newark since June, Reyes has immersed himself in activities held within his building, such as a recent workshop on Medicare and Medicaid as well as a presentation on how to prevent identity theft and fraud.
“Whatever they’re doing here, I try to show my face,” he said.
Reyes quickly recognized that the events organized by the staff of NCC Health and Social Services provide useful information for the seniors and disabled adults of Douglas Homes.
“I love to participate in all the meetings,” Reyes said. “It’s good when you know more.”
Sister Mary Prisca, Assistant Care Coordinator, noticed Reyes’ energetic participation as a new resident.
“He’s somebody that is jovial, always smiling, alive,” she said. “He’s of good spirit.”
Reyes said staff like Sr. Prisca helped ease his transition into a new home. “Sister helps me with anything I need. She’s open to helping people,” Reyes said.
A Newark resident since 1978, Reyes was a longtime tailor based in Kearny, where he would expertly sew and alter all types of clothing.
“I can do anything on the machine,” he said. Born in 1954 in the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, Reyes was the eldest of nine children and learned to sew at age 12 and make his own clothing. As a teen, he ran his own tailor shop, attending school in the morning and then working in the afternoon. He dabbled in fixing cars for less than a year but his mother disliked how dirty his clothes became, Reyes recalled.
And so his skills as a tailor grew. Reyes kept up with the latest in fashion, incorporating trends like decorative inserts in pant legs and adding intricate designs to once plain shirts. He gained a reputation “for doing something different,” he said.
Outside of work, Reyes also studied karate and kung fu and reached advanced levels, even appearing in a local newspaper, he said. Despite his passion for martial arts, when he came to the U.S., Reyes said his decade of training was sidelined as he concentrated on providing for his family.
“It’s not easy. When you come here, you gotta work,” said Reyes, who worked as a tailor in Greenwich Village for five years. However, Reyes said he’s proud of his accomplishment of eventually bringing all eight of his siblings to the U.S. to access better opportunities. His younger brother, Tomas Jr., now works as a tailor at the Kearny site where Reyes worked for 20 years.