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Senior center’s new director feeling right at home

SOUTH DEERFIELD — At the South County Senior Center, Diana Damon of Hadley organizes activities for the community as 30 people stop in for a hot lunch, play card games and prepare chocolate pops for Meals on Wheels.

“This place is so friendly, warm and welcoming,” Damon said. “Everyone will stop what they are doing to say ‘hello’ to a new face.”

It was Damon’s third day on the job as the new director of the South County Senior Center.

The senior center is part of the Frontier Councils on Aging Consortium established by the towns of Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, senior citizens in the three towns can visit the senior center at 67 North Main St., in South Deerfield for lunch, provided by the Franklin County Home Care Corp., and games and exercise.

Throughout her career, Damon has continuously worked with the senior population and developmentally disabled individuals.

When Damon saw the position advertised, she was thrilled. She had spent all of her career working in adult day health programs, nursing homes, and senior centers.

She had got her start early on growing up in Northampton, where she would often visit her elderly neighbors. As a child, Damon would ride her bike to her neighbors’ homes, where they tell her stories of their lives and show her old photographs.

“I’ve always enjoyed spending time with senior citizens,” Damon said. “I love the energy you feel. They have a lot of stories to tell and have very interesting lives.”

For her first job in high school, Damon worked in the kitchen of what was formally known as the Hampshire County Long-term Care Facility. She had observed the facility’s activity director and spotted her future career.

“That is where I chose my career,” Damon recalled. “I always enjoyed working with elders and visiting neighbors. Professionally, I saw a career.”

Damon majored in recreational and leisure service at Greenfield Community College. Later on, she earned a bachelor’s degree for human services from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Damon enjoys her job for the impact it has on others’ lives.

“It’s about keeping people busy and improving and enhancing the quality of life,” Damon said. “I’d like to try to help people stay independent and remain in their homes as long as they can.”

As she takes on the job, Damon has some ideas she’d like to explore.

First, she’d like to explore the possibility of having an open house, in which people from the community could visit the center and find out what it has to offer.

“We could invite the community and have newcomers come see,” Damon said.

She’d also like to offer more outreach programs and events that occur outside the senior center, such as the Polish American Citizens Club in South Deerfield.

Outreach work would involve Damon visiting elders and finding out their interests and needs.

She’d also like to explore offering computer classes for the senior citizens.

“It’d be nice to have a starter class to work on different parts of the computer. Seniors could put pictures on the computer and send to family members,” Damon said.

But first Damon plans to look into what the community already offers. And figure out how the senior center works.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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