Centered on seniors South Scranton woman at home helping others [The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.]By Caitlin Heaney, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Aug. 12--Finding people waiting for her in the morning at South Side Senior Center is hardly unusual for Wendy Carlin.
The center manager, Mrs. Carlin sometimes comes across the early birds when she arrives for work at the Alder Street facility where she helps offer seniors activities and opportunities to interact with others in their community.
"You just try to make it a comfortable place for a few hours a day," she said.
Mrs. Carlin knows the neighborhood well, having grown up in South Scranton and making her home there with her husband and daughters. Working at the senior center for about two-and-a-half years, she actually set out to become a dietetic technician and studied that field at Keystone College. But she eventually realized she did not want to work in a kitchen -- she wanted to be out talking with people.
That discovery led her to earn a bachelor's degree in individual and family studies with an aging emphasis from The Pennsylvania State University. She worked throughout Pennsylvania in a range of human-services positions, including as a caseworker for different groups, before taking a job managing West Side Senior Center in Scranton. She spent more than two years there before becoming manager of South Side Senior Center.
"Caseworking and this are different," Mrs. Carlin said. "(In) caseworking, you're doing an individual at a time. Here, you have a group. You have a lot of different issues all at the same time."
Responsible for running the center and planning its programs and activities, Mrs. Carlin focuses a lot of energy on encouraging seniors to take advantage of what the center has to offer.
"A major component of my job is trying to outreach," she said.
Drawing in seniors is the most challenging part of her job, especially in a time when many younger seniors continue to work and don't have as much free time for activities. She thinks senior centers also tend to have a certain stigma, with some seniors thinking centers have cliques or that they are too young to go there.
"I always tell them, 'Try it once,'" Mrs. Carlin said.
With the programs Mrs. Carlin plans, she ensures the center becomes about more than just playing cards and bingo. She sets up programs that range from exercise to health screenings to picnics to guest speakers. The center also serves meals every day, and Mrs. Carlin tries to offer a nutrition-related program each month.
"I bring in speakers I feel seniors should know about," she said.
But Mrs. Carlin also tries to engage the seniors to get them talking. Asking them about their childhood costumes around Halloween, for instance, can open a door to share stories, she pointed out.
"I love hearing their stories," Mrs. Carlin said. "That has always been that way."
She also praised the volunteers at the senior center for their help.
"They are what keeps it going here, them and my senior workers," she said.
Experience a plus
Her years of experience as a caseworker also helped her develop an eye for potential problems seniors might have. She makes referrals to the Area Agency on Aging if she suspects a senior has an issue, and, if seniors who regularly visit the center miss an event, she calls them to make sure they are all right. For her, the most difficult part of working with seniors is dealing with death.
"It does not get any easier, but it is the population," Mrs. Carlin said.
She lost her own mother to breast cancer 25 years ago at age 56, but knows "she's with me every day." Mrs. Carlin cited her mother as her inspiration.
"If I even had an ounce of her strength, I'd be a different person every day," she said.
Even so, Mrs. Carlin has proven more than capable at helping others. It is just what she does, she said, and her care extends far beyond the seniors she sees during the week at the center. A wife and mother of two daughters -- Casey, an incoming freshman at George Washington University, and Erin, who will start at Scranton High School this year -- Mrs. Carlin long has focused on her family.
"They've always been my priority and most important in my life," she said.
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TO NOMINATE A NORTHEAST WOMAN, please submit requests via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Northeast Woman Nominations, The Sunday Times, 149 Penn Ave., Scranton, PA 18503. Please include the woman's name, address and the reason the reader feels the woman is deserving. Those submitting need to include their name and a daytime phone number.Meet Wendy Carlin
At home: A Scranton resident, she has a husband, Ed, and two daughters, Casey and Erin.
At work: Manager of South Side Senior Center in Scranton
Inspiration: Her late mother, Marie
Aspirations: To travel and potentially earn a master's degree
Diversions: Family always has been a priority, but she also enjoys going out to eat and boating at the beach.
Aversions: Politics and politicians
Quote: "Live for today, because tomorrow's not promised to anybody."
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