After 23 years of service, I am retiring effective Friday, April 27.
I started as the Senior Center’s program specialist in 1995 and a year later I transitioned to the coordinator position. Someone asked me the other day what kind of changes have taken place since I started. My response was, “everything.”
The first thing that came to mind was parking. When I started the parking ramp and skywalk were not there. Participant parking was limited to a lot just north of the building that held about 25 parking spaces. We sold an unlimited number of annual parking permits ($5) with the caveat that they did not guarantee a space. They only guaranteed “the right to look.” The search for a parking spot often was fast, furious, and contentious. We actually had fistfights out there! No one was happier than me when the Tower Place parking garage and connecting skywalk opened.
It’s remarkable how much participants and their expectations of The Center have changed. In the past people came and spent the day here. Volunteers took on long-term responsibilities (e.g., serving as a receptionist or host guide), and classes, programs, and services were nowhere near as diverse and plentiful as they are today. As the interests and needs of participants and other community members changed, so did our programs and services. This type of evolutionary process in programming is ongoing. If we cannot match the needs and interests of participants, we cannot hope to maintain our relevancy and popularity.
Another big change has been in fundraising. When I started, Iowa City and Johnson County provided 80% and 20% of our operational funding respectively. We didn’t have fundraising, Friends of The Center, the Senior Center Endowment or membership fees. Well, those days are gone. As we all know, if we want to ensure The Center’s current and future operation, revenue diversification and fundraising are essential activities.
It's safe to say that in 2003, when cost sharing and fundraising were introduced, they were not well received. But, fifteen years later, it’s pretty clear that not being solely dependent on the City and County for financial support is a good thing. With multiple sources of revenue, The Center is in a much better position to weather fluctuations in public funding, and further expand our services to meet the needs of Johnson County’s growing population of older adults. If we want to be certain The Center is around for the long haul, fundraising is the way of the future. Your financial and volunteer support are more important than ever.
There have been too many building projects to mention – everything from installing a fire sprinkler system to replacing the roof. Despite recent changes in state tax laws and resulting cutbacks in our operational funding, the City’s investment in this facility is remarkable and clearly demonstrates its commitment to serving adults over 50 in our community. Without the incredible financial support we have, and continue to receive from The City, this outstanding Senior Center would not be here.
Changing coordinators after so long may generate some anxious moments related to potential changes in the way things are done around here. I can’t tell you change won’t happen, or if it does, that you will love it, but I can tell you that the people who work here – Brad, Lori, Sharon, Kristin, Dan, Emily, Michelle and Craig – are the very best you could hope to find. Whatever programs and services they provide will be of the highest quality and developed specifically to address your needs and interests. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to work alongside such a fabulous group of people.
Last, I want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement over the years and for showing me the right way to retire. I hope I do as well as everyone here.