Trevor Junquera/Recorder staff Outgoing Inman Center executive director Jeannette Stevens-Daury with new executive director Michele Bauer.
By CAROLINE MURRAY
After 10 years of hard work and dedication to the Horace J. Inman Senior Center, executive director Jeannette Stevens-Daury is saying farewell to pursue a new life in the South.
Stevens-Daury's official last day is Friday. This past weekend, the seniors threw a good-bye party for their esteemed director. She said the celebration was a chance to say good-bye one last time before she leaves the center and the city of Amsterdam for good.
She is moving to Virginia Beach, Va., to be closer to friends and start a new life with her family.
Although excited about a change of scenery and a fresh start, Stevens-Daury will miss the seniors she has committed to helping the last decade, and they will miss her the same.
"This is Wonder Woman," longtime member and Halfmoon resident Eric Lawrence said Thursday, as he stopped to say hello to the director who changed it all.
Before Stevens-Daury stepped foot in the center, seniors recalled the place as dreary, and said it had barely enough members to keep the place running.
Amsterdam resident Bill DiCaprio said he remembers one director after another making promises to change the center, but never making any progress.
DiCaprio said he thought Stevens-Daury would do the same.
But she proved otherwise.
Stevens-Daury applied for the position several months after losing her job as a transportation director at the American Red Cross in Schenectady in 2003, when the organization down-sized.
During her interview, Stevens-Daury had a negative first impression of the senior center.
She said it was dark and lifeless -- she almost forfeited the interview at first glance of the place.
"The first time I walked in here, I really felt like turning around and walking out. It was like a dungeon," Stevens-Daury said. "It really needed a lot of work."
However, Stevens-Daury did not run away. Instead, she accepted the challenge and did a successful job in turning the center around.
When she first began, Stevens-Daury said the center was in debt, membership was at fewer than 100 people, and programs were almost non-existent.
Along with a group of dedicated volunteers, Stevens-Daury said she was able to obtain a state grant and make the necessary renovations to the center. With a touch or paint and new wooden floors, the place opened up its doors to a whole new crowd of seniors.
Membership increased dramatically; today, there are more than 400 people who utilize the center.
Stevens-Daury said she added a variety of activities the for the seniors to partake in, from Zumba and yoga classes, to computer and quilting lessons.
And, her efforts have not gone unnoticed. This year alone, Stevens-Daury won the Montgomery County Office of the Aging Diane Swell Humanitarian Award, and the Montgomery County United Way Delores Knutsen Award.
The awards are important and attest to her hard work over the years, but Stevens-Daury said the most rewarding part of her career is watching the senior citizens create a second home at the center.
"They take pride in their center now, and I think that is one of the biggest things that have helped this center to grow," she said.
Stevens-Daury believes too many people undermine the significance of having a place for older folks to gather and be active.
She said seniors are always looking to learn new things, and keeping active prevents them from ending up in a senior care or early hospitalization.
One of the main reasons she is leaving is to start a new chapter of her life in Virginia. Her husband, Lawrence, passed away last year, and she wanted to surround herself with her friends and family down south. Stevens-Daury said she is not retiring, and hopes to find a new career in Virginia Beach.
However, she will never forget the center, or the seniors who made her career worthwhile for so long.
"It is a hard adjustment for all of us. They are sad about me going, and I am sad about me going. I have to believe it is the right decision. ... I have to be able to let go," she said.
Amsterdam native Michele Bauer will take over her job at the center.
Bauer said Stevens-Daury has been very helpful in the past month, making sure she adjusts to the new position at the center.
Bauer said she has new ideas for the center, such as introducing a cooking class, but will not change anything that Stevens-Daury worked hard to build up.
"I have some new ideas, but I don't want to change anything that is working," Bauer said.