By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Town Administrator John Coderre announced at the Board of Selectmen’s Dec. 16 meeting that Council on Aging Director Kelly Burke would retire Friday, Jan. 10.
“Kelly has done a phenomenal job for us and she has really made the senior center the envy of central Massachusetts,” Coderre remarked. “I wish Kelly well and I want to thank her for being a tremendous senior center director and a valued member of the management team.”
A 35-year resident of Townsend, Burke is married with two grown children and a 5-year-old grandson. She is an Assumption College graduate with a degree in psychology and social and rehabilitation services. Previous professional roles include program coordinator for the Townsend Senior Center and then as senior center director in Sterling.
She has seen a lot of positive changes in her field over the course of her career.
“I think what I’ve seen is differences in programs and activities,” she noted. “I think people will be looking for new and different programming and I think that we have done that here and have tried to be innovative with that.
“I’ve had such a great experience. When I got here in 2005, at the Center Drive address (the small senior center) and that next week is when the building committee started the process to get this building built,” Burke explained. “I was really here on the ground floor, so to speak.”
It was one of her biggest challenges and one of the accomplishments that she is most proud of. She said that getting the “new” senior center built – a several-year process – has worked out so well and has enabled her staff to deliver a broader range of programming.
“There is something for everyone,” she added. “We have a very friendly and welcoming senior center.”
Under Burke’s direction, the senior center has been awarded several grants to serve a diverse senior population. Specifically, relevant to outreach, Burke credits her Outreach Coordinator Jocelyn Ehrhardt for her work with the elder LGBTQ community and the Dementia Friendly Communities and Day Break programs.
“I can’t say enough about our outreach department, it’s kind of the heart of the senior center,” she stated.
She is especially proud of the The Bistro @ 119, an independent restaurant on site that is sustained by its own revenue stream. The public is always welcome, according to Burke.
Additionally, Burke is thankful for the over 100 people who have volunteered their time in The Bistro, behind the scenes and at the front desk – many of whom have been students from Algonquin Regional High School’s Community Action Program.
When asked what she would say to her successor, Burke said, “I think that that person should enjoy the welcoming atmosphere. I’m sure that somebody coming in is going to have a different lens and that’s going to be great for growth and new ideas.”
Burke has accepted a position as director of member services with the Massachusetts Councils on Aging as of Jan. 13.