Joanne Wonsey 'fights right in' at senior center
Updated 6:49 pm, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
There's a new face on staff at the New Milford Senior Center.
Joanne Wonsey recently started in her position as recreation coordinator and assistant director, replacing Carolyn Haglund, who became center director upon the retirement of longtime director Anne Potter earlier this year.
"I love seniors," Mrs. Wonsey said, during a recent interview at the senior center. "I've always adored this population of people. They're so wise. I enjoy being around them."
The job seemed like a natural fit, Mrs. Wonsey said, citing her admiration of and affection for elders, as well as her background in real estate management at a co-op for seniors in New York.
"For me, it's tailor made," Mrs. Wonsey said of the position. "It's a dream."
Although Mrs. Wonsey is new to the position, she is familiar with the center and its activities.
As a longtime volunteer with the breast health program at New Milford Hospital, Mrs. Wonsey has visited and presented numerous programs about breast health at senior centers in the Greater New Milford area.
Her presence at the New Milford Senior Center paid off, as many people greeted her with a friendly "'Oh, I know you,'" recognizing her from the breast health programs, she said.
The senior center offers a variety of services, activities, and health and educational programs for people aged 60 and older.
Mrs. Wonsey said in her new role she would love to see more people, in particular the younger elders, get involved.
People with program ideas are encouraged to contact Mrs. Wonsey.
"I love the connections we have with the hospital and community agencies," said Mrs. Wonsey, who cited the numerous health-related programs and screenings available at the center. "I want to continue that... but also expand them."
The New Milford resident also values inter-generational activities, so there's a good chance there may be some new offerings on the calendar.
"The (senior center) building, to me, is the heart of New Milford because there are so many services that happen here," Mrs. Wonsey said.
She emphasized "the day to day happenings here ... are the pulse for seniors."
"They come. They're a family," Mrs. Wonsey said of the center's faithful and active members.
Ms. Haglund previously worked with Mrs. Wonsey on the education segment of the hospital's Susan Komen breast health grant program, so she knew of her "excellent work ethic and organizational skills."
It wasn't "until (Joanne) was here full time did I realize what a great sense of humor she has, and you need that when you're working as hard as we do here in our eight-hour day," Ms. Haglund said.
"We have clients with very diverse needs and our philosophy is, we are a service provider and we need to meet our clients needs as best we can," Ms. Haglund said. "We are always `on' here at the center. It's not just a work ethic; it is a personal philosophy this team has here, and she fits right in."
Senior Elsie Demeuth agreed.
"You go (to the senior center) and she stops whatever she's doing to talk to you," she said.
"She's very nice... very likable," Ms. DeMeuth said.
Outside the center, Mrs. Wonsey is enriched by outreach within the community.
In addition to volunteering for the breast health programs for the past 11 years, Mrs. Wonsey is active in the hospital's six-year-old drum circle for cancer survivors. The group is facilitated by her husband, Dave, to whom she has been married since 1990.
As a breast cancer survivor, she continues to raise funds for cancer research and has coordinated several Bunco events in the region.
In 2009, she and her husband participated in a Build On 10-day, mission trip to Nicaragua, where they helped build a school.
She also supports a friend by helping to sell a book he/she wrote about Haiti.
For more information, call Mrs. Wonsey at the senior center, located in the Richmond Citizen Center at 40 Main St., at 860-355-6075.