From finding the perfect message to glue inside a recycled birthday card to baking more than 120 dozen doughnuts all the same size, senior citizens who participate in activities at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd are dedicated.
Senior citizens who go to the center, whether they are participating in a program or activity or volunteering, take pride in everything they do.
This dedication is one thing DeAnn Barry has learned in the past five months. Barry, a 47-year-old Brainerd resident, took over as the center's executive director Oct. 11.
"This is a very busy place," said Barry. "There are lots of activities going on and many different programs, as well as new programs. I'm just trying to keep up."
DeAnn Barry, the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center executive director, talked with seniors while they made recycled greetings cards at the senior center.
Barry's responsibilities include overseeing the center's operations, which include the gift shop and the cafeteria. She also works with other organizations and nonprofit groups.
Barry also is responsible for the center's $200,000 budget. The city of Brainerd levies $70,000 for the organization and the other monies are raised through donations, dinners and activities at the center. A major part of funding comes from selling doughnuts every Thursday morning.
The 2005 budget was set before Barry started, so she will not have to worry about putting a budget together until next year. However, she has to maintain the budget this year.
Barry begins her day at 7:30 a.m., before the center opens at 8 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. She completes all the paperwork before the center's activities begin at 9 a.m. and the gift shop opens at 10 a.m.
"After that the day changes as things come up," said Barry. "Day to day is never the same."
Barry helps plan and organize programs, activities and events and she works with the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center Board to develop new programs.
Barry became interested in the executive director position at the senior center because of the age group she would work with and because of the ability to stay connected with the community.
DeAnn Barry became executive director at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in October.
Barry was ready for a new challenge after serving as marketing director at the Brainerd Dispatch. She said there have been no conflicts and everything is moving in a positive direction.
Barry said she would handle conflicts by being honest and straightforward and by responding immediately.
Controversy surrounded the senior center last year when former executive director, Mona Aho, resigned. Steve Esser served as the director temporarily until a new director was hired. Wayne Holtmeier was hired as the executive director in April and served a few months before resigning.
Barry would like people to move beyond the past problems and focus on the future of the senior center. She said there are many great programs at the center and new programs for seniors.
New programs include Camp Whittier Kids, where Whittier Elementary School students and seniors work together; and a project in collaboration with the Northern Minnesota Wood Worker's Guild to develop a wood shop at Franklin Junior High School after the building is closed as a school.
The center also is conducting a survey of its members asking them about their current participation, how informed they are on activities and what they would like the center to offer.
The center has more than 1,000 members. Barry said one of the board's goals is to double membership by 2007. Another goal is to work with the board on a strategic plan for 2006 to accommodate the growth in the area.
Barry was raised on a family farm near the small town of Tintah. She graduated from Campbell-Tintah High School in Campbell in 1976. She attended Moorhead Area Technical Institute where she received a graphics degree in 1978.
"I liked to draw and I had an interest in computers," said Barry. "I liked working with people on projects and promoting their business."
Barry's first two jobs as a graphic artist were at Studio Two and Bang Printing in Brainerd. She then took a position in the public relations department at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
In the late 1980s, Barry started her own graphics business in her home so she could stay home with her three children, Juliann, who is now 17; Joleen, 15; and Jamie, 13.
When her children were school-age, she took a position at the Brainerd Dispatch, where she worked for eight-and-a-half years before moving to the senior center.
Barry said she wanted to be more involved with community-related projects.
"This allows me to give back to the community," said Barry. "We all live and work here and at some point if we can give back it will benefit everyone."
Working at the senior center, Barry discovered most senior members have life stories to share. Barry said a woman who volunteers at the front desk at the center was born in Germany and she shook hands with Adolf Hitler. She said the seniors take pride in everything they do at the center and make sure it is done to the best of their ability.
Seniors citizens Elaine Holmes, Jane Koop and Myrtle Ellis, all of Brainerd, had good things to say about Barry. All three ladies meet at the center every Monday morning to create recycled cards.
"DeAnn stepped into a big job," said Holmes. "She is doing well."
Koop said, "DeAnn does a good job. There are a lot more activities and trips since she's been here."
Ellis said Barry works well with all the seniors and makes the center a happy and fun place.
Respecting your elders is something Barry learned as a child. All four of Barry's grandparents lived until she was 21 and she was close to them all.
Her grandparents taught Barry to appreciate the things she has, especially family.
Barry said her father's father, who was her favorite grandparent, left home at age 14 and he didn't have much. She said he has taught her a lot about life and how to be a good listener.
Both of Barry's grandmothers were good cooks and were the core person in the family.
"Every Saturday we'd get fresh cookies (at Grandma's)," said Barry.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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