Senior Center Director of the Year 2012 Award Winner Lynn Beal

lynn

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Lynn Beal for the DAS “Center Manager of the Year” award. Lynn was appointed manager of the Washington County Senior Center (WCSC) shortly after it reopened in spring 2008. Lynn moved from her original position in foodservice to becoming center manager with an encouraging word and a bit of arm twisting. You see, Lynn didn’t believe she had what it takes to inspire people to reach new heights and actively engage them day after day. What Lynn didn’t realize was that she possesses a boundless energy and internal enthusiasm that is downright infectious and, like a good musical beat, you can’t help but have a spring in your step and a tap in your toe when you are in the WCSC.

Most nominees have one or two very specific programs that earn them a nomination for an award. In Lynn’s case, however, it is not so much one specific thing as the consistency of the many great things she provides at the center. It all begins with the unprecedented attention to décor which reflects a different theme for each month. During Hawaii month, for instance, the seniors were whisked away to the Islands where they could almost feel the sand between their toes. All aspects of the center reflect the theme so during this month the hula dance was used as an exercise routine and the seniors were provided with pineapple and strawberry fruit cups which encouraged the “5 A Day” message. During spring when all eyes are on the graduates Lynn helped the participants feel young at heart by holding a graduation ceremony from the School of Hard Knocks. This was an uplifting and inspiring way of acknowledging the value of each participant’s life experience. The ceremony was complete with pomp and circumstance, graduate caps, diplomas, and a key note address consisting of Lynn reading a speech once delivered by President Obama.

Educating the participants and keeping their minds active is as much a part of good health as exercise and nutrition. Lynn’s desire to broaden her participant’s knowledge beyond the county line developed into the “Grinning Granny Project” wherein they mail off a small cardboard “granny” to centers/facilities around the nation and in foreign ports. The grannies bring to their host center greetings and information about Washington County. In return the host center decorates the granny in the traditional garb of their region and sends her back home with pictures and stories of her adventures. One adventure included a trip to a military post where Grinning Granny was photographed with a famous country singer who was performing at the installation at the time of Granny’s visit. How exciting for the participants to be acknowledged by a celebrity!

As you have seen Lynn has a unique approach to activities and this extends into the wellness arena as well. While the more traditional programs such as the Nutrition Program, Farmer’s Market, Brown Bag, and exercise class are offered Lynn also brings in the more unique programs such as Reiki, meditation, and the CDSMP. Reiki is a wellness technique that uses the palm of the hand to transfer healing energy while the meditation program focuses on inner calm through rejuvenating activities such as sand gardens. Relaxing the mind is only one facet of the wellness approach as Lynn also challenges the mind with Chinese figure puzzles (forming a square out of various shaped puzzle pieces), word challenges, and trivia. It is truly a holistic approach to wellness.

If you were to ask Lynn about the secret to her success she will quickly tell you that it is a team approach. Like a band of musicians without a maestro a village of volunteers is not as effective without the guidance of a leader. Lynn guides her community into a partnership with the WCSC by simply inspiring them to help. Lynn managed to create a beautiful and well stocked sewing room through community donations of machines and supplies. Once in place she then reconnected with the community by having the participants sew quilts which they then raffle; the proceeds funding center activities. One quilt required a donation of men’s neck ties from the community which were sewn together to create a giant flower and later generated $424 in ticket sales. This group also made “bling” (aka rings) out of pieces of elastic and colorful buttons which were so popular even the men got in on the act by making “gentlemen’s pinkie rings”. Lynn has also partnered with the Cub Scouts to create a Memory Garden and soon to be certified wild life habitat which serves the multiple purposes of providing comfort, serenity, beauty, and a safe harbor to wildlife. She has also called upon a magician to entertain the participants but the trick was on him as he found himself so moved by the center that he felt compelled to write about this hidden gem in the local paper. Once the word was out, the entire community began contributing various items which Lynn puts to good use regardless of the shape, size, or original purpose. In Lynn’s opinion the community also includes your own family as she has also recruited her husband and son for a number of creative jobs such as building a wooden cut-out of a 1950’s car which was used at the sock hop as a photo opportunity for the participants – each one getting “behind the wheel” for a shot. The dynamic duo also created a bowling game out of PVC pipes and electrical tape using the Lowe’s creative newsletter as a guide. Acknowledging that partnerships require a give and take Lynn cheerfully gives back through projects such as the collection of toys for shelter animals; a $250 donation to the AHA Go Red campaign for women raised through the center’s sale of red paper dresses; a canned food drive for the Christian Life Center, and donations to “Feed the Children” raised through Bingo proceeds.

Obviously it takes a spirited, enthusiastic individual to transform a center to a place where one longs to cross over the threshold and be a part of something special. A place where “everyone knows your name”. I believe Lynn embodies that spirit and is a most worthy recipient of your Center Manager of the Year Award.

Cindy Elia, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Services and Senior Center Program Manager, CSRA Area Agency on Aging