The Hartland Senior Center has come a long way from its small, humble beginnings and much of that success is owed to its longtime director, Alice Andrews.
Started in 1976 by the group Hartland’s Important People, or HIP, the center was originally located in the lower level of the former administration building in the village of Hartland.
Squeezed into a tiny basement space, Andrews, who took over the center in 1992, remembers having to use fold-up tables as walls creating different “rooms” for multiple programs going on at the same time.
“We would be really creative,” Andrews said. “And it got real busy, which to me is the key to how you get a bigger space - the one that you have has to be bursting at the seams.”
Twenty years later, the center is now located in the Hartland Educational Support Service Center and is considered to be a “jewel of the community” by many people.
Hartland resident and senior center member Diane Detter is one of those people who credits Andrews for the success of the program.
“She’s wonderful,” Detter said. “And I just love it here. It’s why we have so many seniors stay instead of moving to Florida.”
With programs designed to help enhance the lives of seniors, the center provides fitness classes, a softball league, a senior band and chorus and also an assortment of social opportunities such a regular card games and knitting groups.
As the popularity and membership continues to grow, Andrews credits the hundreds of volunteers that help run the center and says one of the reasons for the success is the constant introduction of new and different programs by her members.
“I never say no to an idea,” Andrews said. “I always try to think in terms of what can I offer and I try to think about the people who don’t come here. …That leads you to adding more programs.”
"She’s giving, she’s compassionate, she’s caring and she’s a hard worker."
It is this type of dedication to people, that makes her special, according to Community Education Director Michelle Otis.
“She’s one of the greatest people in Hartland and I think it’s because not only her dedication to the job but her to dedication to people,” Otis said. “She has a way of modeling the way everyone should strive to be.”
Calling her one of the best "sharers I know," Otis says it is also Andrews' commitment to the community and center that brings more people in; running the 1,300 member program, Otis says she is always impressed with how Andrews brings in volunteers to “rally” around her cause.
“The way that she can gather all these volunteers to give up their time and talent to make these grandiose plays for people to enjoy, it’s just awesome. It’s just a small way she can gather people to join in her cause and her cause is always good.”
Looking forward to her own retirement
Focused on promoting the idea of “healthy, active and happy aging,” among the retirement community, Andrews says for her, age is just an internal number.
“People today spend one-third of their life in retirement,” she said. “It shouldn’t be depressing. It should be a time where you’re free to do all the things you never could before and learn the things you never learned before and feel good, and so that’s kind of what we’re about.
“We have no old people here,” she said.
Even with an internal age of 10, however, at 64-years-old, Andrews herself is considering retirement and becoming part of the community she serves so well. Although there is no set retirement date and she admits she may still change her mind and remain on as director, Andrews says she is looking forward to the possibilities her own retirement will bring.
“I look forward to doing some things I never did before or being able to more of what I like to do,” she said. “People know I like to kayak and ride my bike and go camping.”
If she does retire, however, Andrews knows she will also still continue to teach many of her current fitness classes.
“I love the whole aspect of healthy aging, so I look forward to doing that,” she said.
Do you know someone who does great things for Hartland? Nominate them for our Greatest Person series by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.