The Vashon Senior Center is in the midst of transition, as Executive Director Ava Apple is stepping down after nearly six years, and a search for her replacement is underway.
Apple is not going far and intends to continue working with the center’s Neighbor to Neighbor program, which helps island elders remain in their homes with the assistance of volunteers. Ready to leave behind administrative work, Apple said she wants to return to working one-on-one with people.
“I got into this line of work to help people, and that is what I want to do,” she said recently.
Under Apple’s direction, the senior center has increased its members — from 160 when she started in 2012 to nearly 600 now. The center has also increased its programs. In fact, Apple counts the creation of three programs among her greatest contributions at the center, including Neighbor to Neighbor and two transportation programs, one that takes seniors to lunch at the center three days a week and another that provides transportation to off-island medical appointments. Additionally, she said she is proud of the senior center remodel, which transformed the facility in 2016 after the center received a grant for the project and — on a lighter note — is pleased to have started rainbow bingo.
“I met almost all the goals I set out for myself,” she said recently.
Board President Susie Kalhorn said the board is sorry to see Apple go, but understands her reasoning.
“It is important for the community to know that Ava has been a great leader and will be sorely missed, but we respect her decision,” she said.
Apple’s job has been posted for two weeks, and Kalhorn indicated the board is moving as quickly as it can in the hiring process, while intending to take the time to find the right person; the application deadline is April 9, with interviews the following week.
“The new person will find that we have a dedicated membership and an energetic group of volunteers and an incredible staff,” Kalhorn said.
She added that, like at most small nonprofits, the largest challenge is the ongoing need for fundraising to support the center, which operates on a $240,000 annual budget.
Apple said she is looking ahead to focusing more on the Neighbor to Neighbor program, which she said has not yet met its potential.
“What I really want to do is home visits, go in and assess the situation. (Seniors) may need more help than they are asking for, and I may be able to fill some of the gaps for them,” she said, adding: I am glad I still get to be part of this mission. It is the best job I ever had.”
— Susan Riemer