Phyl Newbeck, Contributor
There’s a bit of an age gap between Lori York’s two careers but it’s not about her age. Instead, it’s a gap between the ages of the people she has served. York worked in admissions for Waldorf Schools in Keene, N.H., and Vermont before jumping a few generations to her current position as the director of the Charlotte Senior Center.
York and her family moved to Shelburne in 2018 so she could take the job of admissions director for the Waldorf School. As the pandemic hit, the school laid off 27 members of their faculty and staff. York was not one of those people, but her job was expanded to include marketing and development and she opted not to stay on.
When she saw that there was an opening at the senior center she decided to apply and has been thrilled with that decision.
“It’s taken my whole adult life to find out where I was meant to be,” York said.
Last December, York was promoted to the position of director. At first, she worried whether she would be able to do the job because she considers herself an introvert, but she found that being the host of the center was energizing.
“It’s not the way people might picture a nursing home with people sitting in rocking chairs, doing puzzles,” she said. “We’ve got kayaking, hiking and daily exercise classes, as well as art, music and language classes. I can’t wait until I retire and can take part in the activities.
For those new to the center, York recommends attending the Monday Munch. Every week, a different group of volunteer cooks and dishwashers prepare meals for 60 people.
York notes that although the center’s mission is to serve those 50 and over, all adults are welcome. For classes with limited enrollment, seniors will get priority. She is proud of some of the new programming at the center including a partnership with Age Well for weekly Grab-and-Go meals. The center distributed 4,866 meals the first year of the program.
“Chittenden County may be affluent,” York said, “but there is still a lot of food insecurity.”
The center partnered with the United Way, which allowed York to recruit four volunteers to learn how to teach a Bone Builders class. The senior center now offers two weekly classes which are attended regularly by 27 people. York lauded Bone Builders as a great way to help prevent injuries caused by osteoporosis.
She noted that the center has a variety of exercise classes including one gentle yoga class and another geared toward building strength.
The center works with the library for one-on-one tech support for seniors and the Vermont Attorney General’s office for lessons on scam prevention. York is in the process of putting together a Senior Resource Fair to be held in May which will have tables staffed by members of a variety of organizations including AARP, Age Well, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Recognizing that there are a lot of working seniors, York is trying to reach out with programs in the evenings and on weekends. Her hope is that some of these seniors might decide to volunteer with the center after attending a class or event.
“We have over 90 volunteers, which is the only way we can provide these programs,” York said, noting that she is the only full-time staff member and is helped by a part-time center coordinator.
Volunteers are instrumental in developing new programs and last year, one of those new events was a Veterans’ Day lunch which led York to decide to do more outreach to veterans.
The center also holds a drop-in event on Thanksgiving and Christmas for food and conversation, since holidays can be difficult for seniors who are living alone.
York appreciates the work of her volunteers because she is one herself, helping out at the Shelburne Food Shelf, joining the Lions Club and being a member of the Shelburne Social Services Committee.
“If you’re part of a community you should give back,” she said.
York truly believes she has found her niche at the senior center. “I’m grateful to come here every day,” she said. “It’s really the right job for me and it’s a gift to come here every day.”