New Senior Center Director Kelsey Tyner is on a mission – to make the Madison County community more aware of all that the Eloise McCurley – Madison County Senior Center has to offer.
And her enthusiasm is contagious as she talks about all the plans she wants to implement, from bringing in new members to encouraging partnerships with local colleges and the high school to send students as interns at the center.
“I’m looking for new ideas and new resources,” the new senior center director said. “My mission is to ‘get the word out’ and encourage more seniors to come here. I also want to eliminate the waiting list for the Meals on Wheels program. No one should have to wait to get a meal.”
Tyner, who is the granddaughter of former director Joe Dudley, who retired in April, said she has always been drawn to the older generation, something she attributes to her family. “I have always been close to my Nana and Papa, I have always had a respect and a rapport with them,” she said. “And my parents took the time to really let me get to know my grandparents growing up.” She has also grown up seeing the work her Papa and others have done at the Center.
Her grandmother has passed away, but she still maintains a close relationship with Dudley, and says she feels fortunate to have all these readymade “grandparents” at her job every day. She enjoys playing games with them, going on outings and just listening to their life stories.
Tyner, who previously worked for Project Safe, a family crisis intervention center in Athens, said Dudley told her of his plans to retire while they were at lunch one day this spring.
“I was surprised, but then I immediately said, ‘if you’re really serious, let me know, I think I’d like to apply for it,’” she said.
Tyner feels like coming to the center and following in her grandfather’s footsteps was all part of something she’s been moving toward all along.
“Project Safe was 100 percent crisis intervention, so it was high stress all the time,” she said. And the elderly victims of domestic violence and neglect particularly struck her. She remembers a 65-year-old woman in particular who she spent a lot of time with trying to find her a shelter. The woman had been abused and neglected by her own family. “I thought, what if this were my Nana or Papa,” she said. “I couldn’t get her off my mind.”
Now, after a month at the senior center, she feels herself settling into the job.
“This job is as good as it gets in the social work field,” she said. “These folks are people who have worked hard all their lives and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I love being able to interact with them.”
Tyner, who describes herself as an “old soul” who is very hands on, especially loves going out on Meals on Wheels deliveries or for home evaluation visits where she gets to meet seniors in their homes.
“The conditions some of these people are living in are hard and it makes me mad, and also sad, but it also makes me feel good that we can at least do something to help,” she said. “In some cases we are the only constant, the only ones who check on them and bring them food. That makes it bittersweet at times, but it is always rewarding.”
Tyner has issued an “open invitation” for the community to visit the Center at any time they are open (Monday – Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and she has been pleased at the response.
“We’ve had four new Meals on Wheels clients, four people come in to see how they like it and several who used to be members who’ve started coming back again – and two people stopped in to look around just today,” she said.
Tyner is a 2007 graduate of Madison County High School and received her bachelor’s degree from UGA in May 2012.
She is married to T.J. (Todd) Tyner and has a 6-year old stepdaughter, Chambree. The family has just moved into a new home on the Madison – Jackson County line. In her spare time, Tyner enjoys acting in local theaters and has been an extra in a couple of movies and commercials.
“I feel very blessed to be where I am in my life now,” she said.
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