The Block Island Times

Senior Coordinator steps down

By Gloria S. Redlich | May 26, 2013

Kathleen Mitchell has submitted her resignation as Senior Coordinator in what was clearly a surprise announcement at the May 20 meeting of the Senior Advisory Committee.

Mitchell, who has held the position for a year, was hired to work five hours a week for $4,000 annually. Finding those hours inadequate for the program she wished to develop, Mitchell said she quickly found herself putting in closer to 20 hours. However, as she indicated, “I absolutely love my job and have, willingly, put in the extra hours to get the ball rolling.”

Mitchell also cited the difficulties of “juggling work, family ... [studies] and starting up a new business.” She congratulated the committee on its success in receiving an increase of $5,000 from the Town Council, monies intended to increase the stipend for a new coordinator. While expressing personal disappointment, she felt she was leaving while “we are at a great place.”

Mitchell said the committee had done the necessary groundwork in developing programs for the community. “We know what things work and what don’t; we have a bigger budget to attract [the] next coordinator; we have the support of many people in town and the increasing interest in our programs,” she said.

Chair Gail Pierce expressed the obvious regret of the board, telling Mitchell, “We’re happy for you, sad for us. We’re glad for you doing what you need to do.” She added, “Your shoes will be difficult to fill.” The group’s unanimous appreciation was expressed in a spontaneous ovation for Mitchell, whose resignation goes into effect on June 4.

Pierce said she was concerned about attitudes abroad in the community, suggesting the work of the Advisory Committee was unimportant or trivial and felt the group needed to go about correcting them. Deputy Town Clerk Millie McGinnes suggested the committee might present a monthly report to the Town Council, highlighting special programs and events, which then might be included in the Warden’s Report.

From senior advocacy to travel

In order to smooth the transition to a new coordinator, Mitchell reviewed current programs and described those “in the works.” She highlighted ones that were up and running: senior advocacy with Medicare, heating assistance and AARP; programs for shut-ins, such as meal delivery, visitations and FISH (Friends in Service Helping); educational offerings in art history and off island travel, as well as mentoring programs with the Block Island School, including working with the National Honor Society and on the school garden.

In addition, Mitchell pointed to a number of other programs related to health and well-being, such as exercise, cooking, presentations, demonstrations, discussions and arts and crafts as well as social events including movies, wine-tasting, and holiday activities.

Among other upcoming offerings seniors might be interested in was “Putt-Putt Library,” a program of “golfing through the library” scheduled for Friday, June 7 from noon to 7 p.m. and June 8 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. The group hoped a member of the library staff might be available to describe this further.

Other potential events would include continuation of the mentoring program at the school; putting up the group’s calendar on the Block Island Bulletin Board (BIB), presentations such as health movies and talks by physicians on cardiac disease and diabetes; an art history (talk or class) given by art teacher and local artist Teri McCombe, talks with slides given by islanders wishing to share their travels and theatre attendance at Ocean State and Matunuck Theaters.

Linda Spak said it was important for island seniors to be on the BIB, while Sandra Hopf suggested there were some who were not computer savvy and might need help learning how to do so. In thinking of ways to circulate the group’s calendar, Spak suggested requesting that Block Island Power Company include a one-page mailing with their billing to islanders. Others suggested placement at different sites around the island.

Of the transition between coordinators, Pierce said it would be important “to get the committee involved in activity planning” during and after the new appointment. The group agreed the most effective way to create and sustain programs in the long-term would be to have the organizing, planning, advertising and arrangements done by the coordinator, with committee volunteers doing the hands-on work of running activities.

In the meantime, over the summer the committee agreed to work on implementing programs Mitchell had already planned.

Pierce made a motion to amend the agenda permitting discussion of procedures for advertising for a new coordinator. While no vote could be taken, the group agreed to place the item on next month’s agenda. Members agreed that they had until fall to make their choice. The next meeting is scheduled for June 18.


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