Commitment beyond obligation. That’s the attitude I detected last week when I spoke to the Islanders who make the Senior Center work for the elderly.
Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli seems to lead her team by her good example of dedication and endless energy. In addition to being the center’s chief administrator, Laurie has been spending more and more time visiting those seniors who are housebound.
But who are those individuals who assist Laurie with all the programs of the Center? I decided to find out so I visited them on a Wednesday afternoon.
David Binder is Laurie’s assistant and does a little bit of everything from answering phones to scheduling, arranging rides and even grilling hamburgers for luncheons. David, who is trained in accounting, retired after working for 16 years for Binder Pools, his brother’s firm.
He noted that “the people we serve are always appreciative. Sometimes it’s a challenge but I really enjoy it,” David said.
Giovanna Ketcham, who’s been working with the seniors for some 14 years, does cooking and “anything else that’s needed like cleaning, playing games, shopping for medicine and gardening.”
She said that she does “whatever Laurie needs.” Giovanna added that she likes working with “little kids and adults. It’s fun.”
She would not let me leave without some of her recently made pasta salad and home-grown cucumbers and zucchini.
Alison Binder has been at the Center for the past eight months, noting that she was hired as a therapeutic aide.
“I do everything to help where needed,” Alison said, adding that she likes helping the elderly. Alison also works with the Town’s senior nutrition program.
Donna King is a retired tractor-trailer driver who is also a therapeutic aide who does everything. She has a commercial driver’s license which qualifies her to drive the large buses. She helps Giovanna with cooking and food preparation and “whatever else needs to be done.”
“I’ll be doing this as long as I can,” she said, explaining that she loves to see the expressions of joy on the faces of the seniors. Donna mentioned a recent trip to the Perlman Music Program and how “everyone enjoyed it so much.” She drove the bus.
I spoke by phone to yoga instructor Jean Lawless who instructs at the Center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Everyone is always so thankful,” Jean said. On Wednesday, Jean’s pro bono day, she uses a form of yoga that’s very low impact -— some call it chair yoga.
Laurie’s daughter Marisa fills in for David Binder on Fridays. A social worker meets with Laurie every Tuesday.
Stop by the center for a visit. A warm welcome awaits you.