Outgoing Senior Center director reflects on her time at the local community hub

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Senior Center said goodbye to their director Friday.

Sarah Campbell became the center’s director in Sept. 2018. She had just finished grad school and was working part time as the volunteer coordinator for the City of Buckhannon when she was encouraged to apply by the previous director.

“I was interested because my grandmother on my father’s side actually used to run a personal care home, so I was familiar with the field,” Campbell said. “I knew I was going to work with nonprofits in some capacity; I was really interested in that type of work and working to serve older adults. I applied, had my interview and they hired me the same day.”

Campbell said she’ll miss working at the Senior Center but was offered an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.

“I ended up getting this opportunity to work with another organization and I felt it was really great fit,” Campbell said. “I really enjoyed the conversations I was having with them. I think everyone comes to a point in time where they find a better fit, and I’m really excited about the work I’m going to do. I’m going to miss the seniors and the ladies and gentlemen that I work with at the center, but I do think that this is the right choice for me.”

Campbell spent the last week training her replacement, Tracy Thompson, who started Oct. 25.

“There’s a lot of information and things to switch over in a short period of time, but I think she’s going to do a good job,” Campbell said.

The first piece of advice she gave to Thompson was to never ask anybody to do anything she wasn’t willing to do.

“I told her that we’re a small staff and you basically have to be prepared to do any job in the center,” Campbell said. “People don’t realize just how much collaboration goes on in the center, just to make everything work.”

Her experiences at the center helped Campbell understand the complexities of management and networking within a small community.

“One of the reasons that I wanted this new position is because it gives me the ability to work with nonprofits on the other side of funding and networking — helping them find resources,” Campbell said. “There are finite resources, and there’s a lot of need, so I think this job has given me a lot of perspective and understanding that it takes a lot of moving parts to make real difference in our communities.”

During the pandemic, the services offered at the Senior Center grew, while the level of staffing remained the same.

“We tripled our services in a matter of a couple of months, and we’ve never gone down. We’re doing our job — and we love our jobs — but we’re exhausted because the number of people to do the job hasn’t increased,” Campbell said. “The demand, the need and the offerings that we’re giving have increased … so internally we were trying to keep up with everything but also trying to give our staff a break without dropping the ball. It was really challenging.”

Campbell thanked everyone who worked with her during her time at the center.

“To all the people that I couldn’t go and individually say goodbye to or talk to because so much has changed over the year, I would just say I’m going to miss you and thank you for everything,” Campbell said. “I’ve learned a lot from our seniors and my staff over the years. They really taught me how to be a better person, a better employee, a better coworker and a leader.”

She also encouraged community members to drop by the Upshur County Senior Center.

“Give it a try. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what the center can be, or what the senior center is,” Campbell said. “I just want to encourage people to come by, because it’s about community and it’s about what you make it.”

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