Though Debbie Steagall, Washington Senior Center administrator, has only been in an administrative position for about nine months, she’s been with senior centers around Franklin county for the past eight years — and she has big plans for the Washington center.
Originally from upstate New York, Steagall has lived in Missouri for the past 20 years. She first moved to Virginia to escape the cold, she said, which is where she met her husband, Mark, who was an over-the-road truck driver.
To learn to drive a commercial truck, Steagall took truck driving classes in St. Clair, a town she and her husband grew to love.
The two drove 5,000 to 6,000 miles per week all over the country for several years.
Coming off the over-the-road truck driving job, Steagall and her husband settled in St. Clair. Mark continued driving and Steagall found a position as a staff driver for the Washington Senior Center. Steagall was responsible for delivering meals to shut-in and homebound seniors.
Though three of the four routes are volunteer, the “staff route” is a paid position because drivers are required to go outside of the city limits, like Berger and New Haven, to deliver meals.
Just under a year later, the position was eliminated and Steagall was hired to help in the kitchen.
With 17 years of restaurant experience, including as a cook and manager, Steagall knew what she was doing, but didn’t want to stay in the kitchen long-term.
Despite that, she said she loved working in the kitchen and called the workers her “adopted family.”
When a position as a regional home delivery meal coordinator became available, Steagall applied and was hired. The position was based at the senior center in Union. Eventually, Steagall was transferred to the St. Clair Center.
Through the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging, Steagall handled assessments and reassessments for all four senior centers in Franklin County.
In addition to the centers in Franklin County, the agency has 25 centers in a four-county area.
While training for the meal coordinator position, she also learned administrative responsibilities as well, she said, which helped her land her position as administrator of the Washington Senior Center.
In July 2012, Steagall became the Washington center’s administrator. After a year and a half at other senior centers, Steagall said getting the job in Washington felt like she was “coming home.”
“For whatever reason, when I was here originally, the community really accepted me.”
After her husband had a heart attack, the center held a fund-raiser to help the couple pay the steep medical bills.
“I truly love this job,” she said.
As administrator, Steagall still does home meal assessments, and also fills out a lot of state and federal paperwork.
Because the center receives state and federal funding, everything must be recorded and logged, she noted.
In the past several months, Steagall has concentrated on introducing more activities.
“Dining and Dancing” with a live band is now held the first and third Wednesday of the month. From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Steagall also has started “Manicure Monday” on certain Mondays, and is working to expand the center’s computer classes.
Farkle, a dice game, has really taken off at the center, Steagall said.
Blood pressure and blood sugar checks, previously held once each month, are now being offered twice each month.
An arthritis exercise class also has been expanded.
A birthday/anniversary celebration is held the third Monday of each month. Various bands perform during the celebrations.
Yoga is held every Friday. A new quilting class is forming and art classes are held weekly.
“If you make it fun, people want to come,” Steagall said.
Steagall encourages people to visit, and to stay for lunch. There is a $3.25 per meal suggested donation for those 60 and older. Those under 60 must pay $6.25 per meal. Because of funding guidelines, those under 60 can not eat for the reduced price, but are welcome as guests.
One myth Steagall wants to debunk is that senior centers are for poor people or are “institutional.”
“I’ve worked in all four senior centers in Franklin County. There’s nothing institutional about it,” she said, adding that the center is for being active physically and socially.
“We might be old, but we’re not dead!,” she said jokingly.
Steagall said she would like to see 100 people visit the center per day. Now, about 60 visit per day on average.
Another goal is to increase Oats bus riders. Transportation to the center is offered Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
At least five people must be on the list to ride or the bus doesn’t stop at the center, Steagall said. Because of that requirement, the bus hasn’t been coming on Mondays.
“I know there are people out there who don’t have transportation who would like to visit,” she said.
For more information about Oats transportation, people may call the senior center, or Oats, 1-800-373-1631.
Visitors must live in the city limits to be eligible for transportation services. There is a suggested donation of $3 per ride.
The bus arrives at about 9 a.m. and picks up at about 12:30 p.m. On certain days of the month, the bus takes riders shopping at Schnucks or Wal-Mart after the senior center.
Steagall also hopes to start a monthly ice cream social when the weather warms up.
Steagall said she is always open for class suggestions.
Volunteers are needed for home delivery. There are three local home delivery routes that run daily. Each route takes about one hour, Steagall said, adding that the meals are usually ready by about 10:30 a.m.
The center reimburses for gas mileage.
For safety reasons, basic background checks are required.
Businesses also are welcome to volunteer by having someone deliver meals on a weekly or monthly basis.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, people may call the center, 636-239-3374.
Hours, Open House
The Washington Senior Center is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For senior center activities or a menu, people may look in The Missourian, visit the center, or the menu/activities list can be emailed.
The Washington Senior Center Liaison Committee will host an open house June 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details will be announced at a later date.