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Barge takes over as senior center director

October 5, 2018—The new director of the Excelsior Springs Senior Center said he knows he must fill the huge shoes left by the previous director.

Jeff Barge said as he still works to get his “sea legs” he understands the shoes left by Denise Bedford.

Jeff Barge

NEW SENIOR CENTER DIRECTOR JEFF BARGE encourages seniors within the community to come take the Senior Center and Excelsior Springs Community Center for a test drive. Barge recently replaced Denise Bedford after her retirement.
KIMBERELY BLACKBURN  |  Staff photo

“When someone like Denise has been here for so long, that’s a generation she has covered that all they knew was Denise,” he said. “And so, I’m trying to fill those shoes every day.”

Barge came from a much larger facility. He said he estimates his previous facility contained about five times more hours worked by paid employees. He said he estimates volunteers performed 800-1000 hours of work per month at his previous facility. It proves to be difficult to run a senior center without volunteers, he said. Volunteers prove to be so important, Barge said recruiting more currently remains his number one focus.

Barge said when those who care about the community see what kind of difference they can make in the lives of seniors, they will want to volunteer.

THE STORIES

Listening to the stories from those who lived history contained within the past generations have left a lasting impact on his life, he said.

Barge said he wished he recorded the stories he heard over the past 13 ½ years of working with seniors.

When he first began working with seniors, he said many fought in World War II. Many veterans from the time, he said, did not call themselves heroes.

“(They said) I was an American,” Barge said. “(They said) I knew I had a job to do and I wasn’t going home until the job was done.”

Barge said he listened to stories about those who traveled in horse-drawn buggies during the 1930s. Seniors told stories about how they only bought essentials such as sugar and flour from the store. Everything else came from the farm.

Barge said he listened as a man told of a story of how the man served with John F. Kennedy. Later, as the man worked outside Harry S. Truman’s office, Kennedy arrived to meet with Truman to discuss a possible run for president, Barge said. The man told Barge Kennedy looked straight at him and said, “Hey, I know you.” After the meeting, the senior sat in the back of Kennedy’s vehicle. Barge said the man told him he and Kennedy talked about the good old days for about 20 minutes in the back of Kennedy’s Lincoln.

Barge said when he heard the story, the hair stood up on the back of his neck.

“These seniors have lived history,” he said.

These stories reaffirm how wonderful life can be, he said.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Because Barge said he believes the quality of one’s life remains the most important thing, his philosophy proves to be what can improve the seniors’ lives.

His philosophy focuses on socialization, nutrition and recreation. He said once a senior learns these three things, their quality of life will be better.

After one retires, he said, every day proves to be a gift. Seniors come to the center for lunch because they don’t want to cook. They don’t want to sit around and stare at the walls, Barge said, they want to have a conversation with one of their peers. He said the fun thing about his job involves how most who walk through the door comes motivated to do something fun.

FUTURE PLANS

Barge said he would like to add exercise classes focused on those with a lesser level of physical activity. He said he would like to add a class to help stroke victims regain some of their mobility.

Barge would like to add a class teaching seniors what they need to know about technology. He said he currently looks for tech-savvy volunteers who can teach seniors how their phones can help organize their lives.

Barge said he would love to start a morning coffee club.

He said he would like to start programs to help keep seniors’ brains stimulated. He said he wants to begin various types of support groups. One might be geared toward widows and widowers. Another might focus on those who act as caregivers for those suffering from dementia. Barge said he wants to add more programs to help improve the quality of life for seniors in the community.

Barge said he wants those seniors who have not gotten involved at the community center to come give them “a test drive.” He said he would love those seniors that haven’t made the transition from the old senior center to the new to come as well.

Barge said he wants to stay involved with the seniors of the community. He said he wants them to tell him of their experiences and how he can help make the facility better.

“My office door should always be open,” he said.

By Kimberely Blackburn • kimberely@leaderpress.com

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One Response to Barge takes over as senior center director

  1. Kate lenihan Reply

    October 7, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Very excited to hear about these ideas and eager to help develop them into plans.

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