For 24 years, seniors have seen a familiar face leading the senior center. On Aug. 31, Mike Karwan, senior center director, will no longer be at the helm as he retires.
The Commission on Aging originally hired Karwan, who is from Glastonbury.
“It was an exciting opportunity for me. It was different from anything I had done before,” remembers Karwan. “When I came on 24 years ago this place was up and running. The staff was very competent and knew what their jobs were.”
There are seven employees at the senior center including coordination, housekeeping, dial-a-ride and more.
Karwan said the senior center does its community support programs best. John Coughlin, community support coordinator, does all the programs such as tax programs and counseling for supplemental medicare insurance.
Other programs such as dial-a-ride are very important at the senior center.
“It has been running since 1977,” said Karwan. “It is very demanding. Seniors need transportation. It is extremely important to folks.”
There is senior lunches everyday for those 60 and older and it is by suggested donation.
“The idea is that nutritional value and socialization is supportive,” said Karwan. “Some things have changed here.”
For example, ceramics was big 24 years ago and today hardly anyone is interested. Other classes have grown such as dance and exercise.
“These types of things are the focus now for a lot of seniors,” Karwan said. “We have a computer lab. When we started it, people could not get enough of it. But now, seniors are on board. They have computers, email and now it is cell phones. Technology has changed fast, but seniors who want to stay at that level are able to do that.”
Crafters have been around a long time and do the holiday bazaar. Some of them are the most elderly at the center.
Karwan said when he retires he plans on traveling and do a lot of hobbies.
“Twenty four years here have been outstanding. Six different mayors and the support from Common Council has been unbelievable for the senior center. It has gone on even before I got here,” Karwan said. “This community is very supportive by our political officials.”
The senior center was built in 1977 and Karwan said that is an indication of the commitment the City has for the elderly population.
“I’m excited about getting someone new here. It is an opportunity for change and change is a good thing,” said Karwan. “I would be supportive that the City will pick someone who will do a great job. It is a great opportunity.”
Still, those who participate at the senior center say Karwan will be missed.
Annie Zemaitis said she has been coming since she retired.
“Mike is a wonderful person. He runs this very well,” said Zemaitis. “He is a great friend.”
“Right after I retired in 2005, I came in here to help,” said Loida Inovejas. “I worked with Mike a lot. He will be missed. He is a very nice guy.”
“He is like a big daddy,” said Joanne Simon. “I love him.”
“He is a good man,” said Fred Calcinar. “I see him every morning. I hate to see him go.”
“Every Friday morning for 20 years we gather at the snack bar for coffee and Mike would come and say hi to us,” said Noella Roberge. “The last birthday we celebrated for a young lady was 103. He will be missed.”
Dennis Oakes who coordinates the senior center said the staff will miss Karwan as well.
“The best guy we ever had working here,” said Oakes. “He is a gem. Very personable and passionate. He was good to the staff. We will miss him.”