South County Senior Center director leaving

  • A photograph from 2014 of the South County Senior Center on North Main Street in South Deerfield. Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz PAUL FRANZ

  • Volunteers prepare a Thanksgiving meal at the South County Senior Center, served to about fifty people, around noon Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff

  • South County Senior Center residents enjoy a home cooked meal of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy during the center's annual potluck Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff

  • South County Senior Center members play bingo at a pre-Superbowl party in 2017. Recorder file photo

  • Marlene Johnson Contributed photo—

Recorder Staff
Saturday, March 03, 2018

SOUTH DEERFIELD — At the end of the month, Marlene Johnson will end her tenure as director of South County Senior Center, leaving behind a legacy of rejuvenated programs.

After taking the position in 2015, Johnson restarted a number of events and programs that had fallen by the wayside over the years including an annual barbecue and Christmas party.

Johnson leaves South County Senior Center’s helm to take a job as executive director of her hometown Palmer’s Council on Aging, which is closer to West Springfield where she currently lives.

“It’s a good opportunity. It was too good to pass up, but I will miss everyone immensely,” Johnson said. She submitted a letter of resignation on Thursday and will officially depart from her post on March 30.

In her absence, the South Deerfield-based center’s Program Coordinator Sue Corey will serve as interim director.

“Part of me is really sad. Good things happened. We changed our newsletter, and worked closer with TRIAD than the past director did. I’m gonna miss them. When people usually leave jobs sometimes it’s not on the best of terms. But this is different. This is family, this is like leaving family,” said Johnson.

“I think we accomplished a lot. We were able to be a little bit more energy efficient when we brought in the programmable thermostat, we ended up with new flooring in the bigger room, we were able to fill the (year-long) grant position for outreach coordinator,” she said, noting, “we will be reapplying again before I leave.”

A transition in leadership

Looking ahead, Whately Selectman Jonathan Edwards, chairman of South County Senior Center’s oversight committee, said town officials from the center’s three participating towns (Deerfield, Sunderland, and Whately) will work with Johnson to make for a smooth transition in leadership, and will begin searching for another director in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to look into doing an assessment as to how to best replace Marlene with a person and direction that best represents the always changing needs of our populations. Marlene has done a tremendous job at everything we have asked her to do,” Edwards said.

To that end, Deerfield Selectman Trevor McDaniel, who is on the senior center’s oversight committee, noted that surveys will most likely be mailed to seniors in the tri-town region seeking input on potential changes to the job’s description.

“Every time you have a change of leadership it’s a good time to see where you’re at,” McDaniel said.

According to Edwards, a few changes the oversight committee is looking into include opening the center for five days each week instead of four, as is the current schedule, and expanding programs to meet elder needs throughout the region.

“It would be an opportunity to develop programming for seniors who don’t want to come to the senior center yet,” Edwards said.

Meanwhile, Johnson will finish her out the rest of the month, and can be found at the center at 67 North Main St. near South Deerfield’s village center, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call Johnson at 413-665-2141 or Corey at 413-665-9508.

“She went above and beyond her duties as a director to make sure each and every senior in South County had the service they need. She worked side by side with me on many projects. Her big thing was to keep our seniors safe,” said Sharyn Paciorek, president of the local TRIAD.