Vashon senior center welcomes a new director

Ava Apple is the Vashon Senior Center
Ava Apple is the Vashon Senior Center's new executive director.
— image credit: Susan Riemer

The Vashon Senior Center has recently named a new director to lead the nonprofit agency, Islander Ava Apple, who has deep roots at the center and an affinity for working with seniors.

The center, a fixture on Vashon for at least 30 years, provides a variety of activities for seniors, including regular card games, nutritious lunches, weekly classes and frequent trips off the Island. Its mission is to create a sense of community that enhances the experience of being an older adult on Vashon.

Last month, after previous director Willow Eaton stepped down to take a position with a Tacoma senior center, the Vashon center’s board selected Apple from a field of 20 applicants, according to board member George Eustice, who served on the selection committee. While other applicants had “fabulous” credentials, he said, the board selected her because of her previous experience working with a Seattle senior center, her time spent as a volunteer and board member of the Vashon center and her experience recruiting volunteers.

“From working with her myself, I know her to be very reliable,” Eustice said.

In a recent interview, Apple expressed excitement about her appointment to the part-time position and her thoughts about the future of the center.

“As a board member, I felt there was a lot of untapped potential here,” she said. “People confuse it with the (Vashon Community) Care center. I am going to change that.”

In her application for the position, Apple noted, she stressed the importance of reaching out more and collaborating with other Island groups to best serve seniors here.

She has several ideas for tapping in to Island conversations, she said, including joining a group of regulars who gather at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie and talking with other Island groups — including Audubon, Silver Sneakers members at the Vashon Athletic Club and Vashon churches — about the center.

“I want a dialogue,” she said.

In 2010, Apple noted, the census showed half the Vashon population is 50 and over.

“I want to know where those people are and what they want,” she said.

She fully expects to hear diverse answers, based on the needs and interests of seniors and their families. In the field of human services, she said, seniors are considered to be members of three groups: the young old, the old old and the oldest old, often with a full generation in between.

Apple began her new position last week and wants to settle in and have some of those conversations before she plans too far ahead, she said, but she does have some programming ideas she thinks would be useful for Island seniors, including some informational sessions on recent technology and social media and expanded physical fitness opportunities.

“I don’t want to make it sound like I am going to change everything,” she said. “This isn’t about Ava’s Center. I am here to serve.”

The center, until recently under the umbrella of the Vashon Park District, is an independent organization and is fiscally healthy, she said, though as a nonprofit, it could always find good uses for additional funds.

Apple, 49, has a human services degree and moved to Vashon from the Seattle area four years ago. With a background in working with seniors, she began volunteering at the senior center to meet people in the community. In 2010, she joined the board, she said, and was serving as the board’s vice president when she applied for the position. She also worked during this time, providing home care for patients with dementia, an area she called her specialty.

Apple also served as a founding member of a relatively new Island organization, Neighbor to Neighbor, which hopes to make it easier for Vashon seniors to remain in their homes as they age. In her role as a senior center board member for the past two years, she has attended the meetings of the Vashon Social Services Network, which includes representatives from several different social service agencies.

Apple noted she will turn 50 later this year and will join the large demographic of Islanders 50 and older.

“We’re all stakeholders in the senior center,” she said.


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