Director of Senior Services: Southbury, CT
Certified Dementia Practitioner
The fear of a race is what drives me to race it! I think it is so empowering to be scared out of your mind about a race, sign up for and train and to compete in that race and conquer it. It is extremely empowering and addicting
A Community Leader
Southbury, has the largest per capita of senior citizens in the state of Connecticut, with 38% of the town’s population aged 60+. I have an amazing staff of Town employees, and we contract with 10 – 15 instructors that I oversee. We average 120-180 people through our doors a day; in 2019, we had more than 26,700 people come through our doors! Our seniors are VERY active: over 1500 seniors pass through our doors every month just for our fitness programs. I also manage a lunch program provided by an outside contractor that served over 3,600 meals last year. Lastly, I oversee a full transportation division of four buses that provides the only available “public” transportation in this rural town. In addition to my role as Director of Senior Services, I also serve as the Town of Southbury Municipal Agent and Municipal Veteran Liaison, which involves supporting, advocating and providing resources to assist our seniors. I love my work and the fast-paced nature of it all. While there is so much varied responsibility and pressures, it is my interactions with our seniors and relationships formed that I truly treasure and make the craziest of days so worth it.
A Town Comes Together
When COVID-19 hit the United States, I was instantly concerned about how our seniors would manage to follow Shelter-In-Place orders if they were in need of groceries. I created the “NO PERSON CONTACT Grocery Brigade”. I conducted extensive research about the available grocery services in Southbury, and had conversations with managers from both Shop Rite and Stop and Shop. Shop Rite’s “At-Home Service” was already overwhelmed and over four weeks behind on order fulfillment; Stop and Shop did not provide delivery service in Southbury. It was clear there was a significant need for the Brigade. Our Fiscal Director immediately offered his support and permission to utilize the town’s Shop Rite house account card. Thankfully, both volunteers and civic groups stepped forward and offered to help. I also reached out to my personal networks, which included my triathlete friends! In a very short period, we had secured over 50 volunteers, who over the last three months have put their health at risk and operated as dedicated shoppers in the Grocery Brigade. Without them, this could never have taken off!
The Grocery Brigade
A senior places an order
by going to our website and filling out the template OR calling our brigade hotline and leaving their name and number. We have three dedicated volunteers that call the seniors, take their order, and complete the template for them. All orders are automatically emailed to my office. My drivers formulate the routes and the seniors receive a phone call notifying them the day before their order is fulfilled. I go to the grocery store and hand out the orders to the volunteers, and they shop until all orders are filled. I stand at a register and pay for the orders; I text my Senior Center Director the order number and amount. She calls the senior and gives them the amount, they write a check payable to the Town, tape it to their door and remain INSIDE until after we leave. My driver and a runner deliver the groceries to the senior’s front door and take the check. Once we leave the senior retrieves their groceries from their front stoop. NO CONTACT!
Flattening the Curve and Raising Spirits
The Grocery Brigade Program concluded on June 9, 2020. 863 orders valued at $78,406.03 were delivered over 45 days! Many in the community have credited the program for helping to “flatten the curve” in Southbury, as the town experienced fewer positive cases than expected. Seniors and their out-of-state family members have expressed incredible gratitude. We had one daughter claim we saved her 92-year old father’s life. Others have expressed such awe that we cared enough to make this happen, keep them safe, and keep them fed. The notes, cards, and calls have overwhelmed our office: we have received so many beautiful notes we plan to make a wall collage with them. The seniors of Southbury have touched us much more than they could ever imagine!
I graduated from a Military Academy, played sports and have always been active and as an adult am a self-described “gym rat”. Through the years of raising my three children, engaging in public service, and running my own business, there have always been athletic ebbs and flows. One of my secret dreams was to run a 5K. When my Spin instructor asked if I wanted to run a 5K with her I actually blurted out that I had always wanted to do one. Three months later, September 11, 2011, I ran my first 5K sick with a virus and beat my goal time by 10 minutes! I was shocked and so impressed: I wanted to run that same route again when I was healthy. A month later I did just that and placed 2nd in my age group! There was NO looking back: I was hooked on running.
I ran my first half marathon in April 2012 and completed my first marathon in October 2012. I will NEVER forget crossing that finish line of the marathon and thinking: ‘what's next?’ By January 2013, I had a coach, a bike, and was well on my way to training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. I finished fifth in my age group and just like with running there was no looking back! I moved to compete in half Ironmans. I never would have imagined myself as a middle-aged mom of three doing this. I could not have pictured the feeling of accomplishment and strength and the feeling of being beautiful because of that strength: I loved it and wanted more. With coaxing from a friend, I finally built up enough nerve to register for and race in my first full Ironman in 2016. I completed my second one ten months later, and have been doing one Ironman a year since then. I have a very ‘Type A’ personality and am driven by grit and determination, which certainly plays a huge role in endurance sports. The best part is having my children witness their mom set her mind to something and achieve it. To me that is better than any medal earned.