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Senior center director ready to 'pass the baton'

After two and a half years serving as the executive director of the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center, I have decided it is time for me to pass the baton, and I am excited to share why.

When I was hired by the board back in November 2011, there were some big challenges. I knew the center was struggling financially and operationally. Unlike the vast majority of senior centers throughout the country that are funded by tax dollars through city parks and rec departments, the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center was established as a nonprofit in the 1970s, which created funding challenges when the economy began to decline in the late 1990s and personal donations fell. Funding problems had been obvious for several years, and clearly there was a need for fresh income streams, but very early into my new role I realized the center had much deeper issues. Key relationships that were once strong had become strained and adversarial. Ten years of frustration and hurt feelings had left the center broken down and stuck in a fog.

Together with our board, we set out to achieve four main goals: To develop a renewed focus for the center, to grow fresh income streams, to increase building usage and expand the center’s presence in the community.

Our board, our staff and countless volunteers have worked very hard over the last couple years to concentrate on reaching these goals, and I am very excited about what we have accomplished with the help of our community. Here are some highlights:

Many hours of strategic planning with our board of directors have produced a renewed vision for the center, and staff members are working together as a team to fulfill the center’s mission. We have developed strong community partnerships — working with the Oregon Food Bank, Adelante Mujeres, Dairy Creek Community Food Web, Pacific University and many others, which has allowed us to nearly double the amount of programs and services we provide. We have also doubled our volunteer teams and the number of fundraising events. We have made many improvements to both the inside and outside of our building, and the result has been a significant increase of building use and increased revenues from facility rental.

We have gone a long way to mend damaged relationships and restore the city’s trust, which has resulted in small but steady donation increases each year since 2011. After many years of struggling financially, all this work has poised us to finish this year in the black for the first time in decades.

It’s been worth all the hard work (and spending three hours in my car each day) for the last two and a half years, and I am proud of what we have achieved. The center is in a healthy place, and now needs a local leader who can continue to network with the community in ways that I cannot, living in Vancouver. I’m leaving knowing that I have done the work I was hired to do, which was to lead the center through these difficult changes.

I want to thank the community for its faithful support in donating items for fundraising dinners, bingo nights, pancake breakfasts, doggie dashes, car shows, Oktoberfests, benefit auctions, bazaars and countless other fundraising events. Local businesses, from Ace Hardware to Van Dyke Appliances and everyone in between — you are our heroes, and I am so grateful for your support. Thanks to the scores of volunteers who serve faithfully each week at the center, Meals on Wheels, Senior GAP and Ride Connection. So much of what you contribute happens under the radar, but I got to experience your servant’s hearts and it fostered my respect for the people of Forest Grove. Thanks to those from the city of Forest Grove who value the contribution of seniors in our community and have faithfully supported the mission of the center, and to courageous leaders before me who built the track the center runs on — folks such as Alma Albrecht and Linda Earl.

Although I am saddened to be leaving, I am handing the baton to a wonderfully capable interim director, Kathleen Redwine, a local who brings a huge heart for the center and this community together with strong leadership skills.

I will be cheerleading from the sidelines as I support the center as a volunteer. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had to get to know this community and for the deep friendships I have made. Take care of each other.

John Schallberger has served as director of the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center since November 2011.




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