Ten years is a long time. When I started at the People Plus Center – 10 years ago this month – I was 43 and divorced for almost three years. Thinking about it, I now realize that I was coming out of my divorce “coma” so it was a great time to start something new and completely change my life.
My daughters Daphne, Violet and Juliet were 11, eight and six at the time and had never known me to have a full time job, as I had always stayed home with them. So it was a big change in our house. Luckily all of my daughters were in school by that time and I could put them on the bus in the morning and walk to work.
Then People Plus posted an Executive Director position and the more I learned about the position the more I felt it was a perfect fit for me. He combined communications and marketing experience, personnel management, knowledge of health, nutrition and fitness programs, technology training and even some on-air TV experience for the show. monthly TV show with Frank. And having lost my parents when I was young, I really liked the idea of taking care of the elderly population.
To prepare for the interviews, I met everyone who wanted to tell me about People Plus and its history. Mike Feldman, who had been chairman of the board for five years, spent over two hours with me; just like David Knight who has been on the People Plus development committee for 15 years. Both of these gentlemen knew the history of the organization, were loyal fans of Sig Knudsen, the former (deceased) executive director, and both hoped to see the organization experience a rejuvenation after a period of change and loss.
And I quickly realized there was going to be a steep learning curve. First and foremost, I had never asked anyone to donate money. (Scary!) Also, I had never run a teen center program (scariest!). I had never balanced an annual budget, created an annual fundraising campaign, or coordinated a gala dinner for over 200 people, and had no idea how to handle Frank Connors!
Despite all these shortcomings (and Frank Connors voting against), I got the job. And I have to say that while it’s been tough, it’s been pretty damn amazing since then.
Ten years ago we had 486 members. This month we have 1516 members and it just keeps growing. We offer nearly 150 activities at the Center each month, including exercise, clubs, games and social events. We see 1000 visits per month to the Center as members make friends and enjoy their lives.
There has also been a huge increase in the number of participants in the Teen Center program. We have gone from six a day to dozens and those numbers are also steadily increasing. They eat a huge amount of food, play games, make artwork, and access computers as part of a safe program that keeps them off the streets.
During COVID, we stepped up our nutrition and delivery services from the Center and went from a dozen homebound cyclists to 651 people receiving food / pharmacy transport and delivery services from People Plus. And we cover almost 30,000 miles a year in free transport; taking people to appointments for doctors, dialysis, physiotherapy, haircuts and groceries. We also now offer over 1,000 take-out meals per month for our seniors who often need better nutrition or variety. And people come to have their hairstyles cut with Margarita Day who wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it anywhere else.
It has been a decade of incredible growth. With the Brunswick area having such a large number of retired adults, this center is exactly what the doctor ordered. And that was exactly what I needed in my life too, as I looked to reinvent myself, create a goal, and show my daughters how to be an independent and successful woman.
However, one thing no one told me was that I would fall in love with everyone in People Plus. They are generous and intelligent people who have lived long and interesting lives. They volunteer, socialize and exercise at the Center and they often view People Plus as their bond and lifeline to happiness.
We are their family and they are ours. And they became my surrogate parents and I love them. They watched my daughters grow up, learn to drive and go to college. They saw me recover from a divorce and then meet the love of my life in Jonathan Edgerton. When he and I got married last year, I received almost 100 congratulatory cards from the members. And unfortunately, I have lost many members along the way that have shaped me and this organization.
So last week, the People Plus Board of Directors, staff and volunteer members surprised me with a 10th anniversary celebration. Again I received almost 100 handwritten notes and cards as well as a handmade apron and a huge beautiful Italian board tray. These gifts and notes of encouragement and thanks mean more to me than I can ever express.
I didn’t know when I took on this job 10 years ago that I had the chance to make a difference. Working with a great team of people who create an amazing place for our community. We like to come to work every day and leave every night with the reward of making people happy and improving their lives. It’s incredibly rewarding and I feel honored to have been a part of the People Plus organization for the past decade.
And I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring. Maybe by then I’ll write about the grandchildren!
Stacy Edgerton-Frizzle is the Executive Director of People Plus.
Giving voice: Everyone at the Brunswick homeless shelter has a different story