Debbie Townsend can hardly contain her excitement in about her new job as director of the CHEER Coastal Leisure Center in Ocean View.
She has been at her position for about a month now and feels as though it is a perfect fit.
“I really feel like this job was chartered for me — like it was meant to be,” she shared excitedly.
Townsend got her experience not in human services, as most directors of non-profits, but in banking. She was born in Milford, raised in Montreal and graduated high school from Woodbridge in Bridgeville, Del. Her own children were raised in the Indian River School District. Now, she lives in Ocean View.
After working her way up from a bank teller through the ranks, while going to school and getting a degree in finance, Townsend ended up working with a 50-plus club at her bank — something that gave her insight to the world of event planning for seniors.
“My desk was in the same room as them. We planned parties, birthdays, clubs, etc. I was an unrecognized worker with a minute to spare,” she said, laughing.
“My focus here at CHEER is serving the seniors and planning meals and trips, and feeding the homebound. Something people might not know about CHEER is that it is nutrition-based,” she said.
Every day, Monday through Friday, lunch is served at the CHEER Coastal Leisure Center. To be eligible for membership, people must be at least 50 years old. The cost of membership is $22.50 per year, and all members can eat at the center. For those not yet 60, the cost for a meal at the center is $4.50, unless their spouse fits the 60-or-older requirement. Those who are 60 or older, or whose spouses are, can provide only a donation in exchange for a meal (a recommended $2.50).
Since starting her new job, Townsend has already held a successful St. Patrick’s Day dance. Special events planned for April include two-day water-painting class, that’s “going to be big,” she said, and will showcase area painters with an expo.
They also have a “Queen for a Day” even planned, in which members can spend $30 and go to the beauty school in Dagsboro to get a manicure, pedicure, a wash and set, and lunch. Two weeks before Mother’s Day, they’ll be taking a bus trip to East Coast Nursery, off Route 24, so flowers they purchase can be planted in time for Mother’s Day. They will also be having a celebration with the Girl Scouts for National Arbor Day.
“I‘d like to get the older and younger generations together,” emphasized Townsend.
“And she’s learned all that in a month!” exclaimed Florence Mason of CHEER. “We really welcome her presence. New things are being planned, and the seniors are just as excited as she is.”
They’d also like to setup a Business Expo and have vendors that provide services for seniors attend.
“So they can get a feel for us and we can get a feel for them,” said Mason. “We like to bring the business and seniors together.”
Townsend said she is looking forward to the future and feels a real connection with the populations she serves.
“It’s my community,” she said. “I live here. It just happened that I was at a point in my life where I said, ‘I could do that,’ and people said to me, ‘You should do that.’ It gives me room to grow and it’s fulfilling and really gets my creative juices flowing. I really feel like it was meant to be.”
In addition to meals and special events, CHEER Coastal Leisure Center regularly offers free blood-pressure screenings provided by their registered nurse, on the third Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m., as well as yoga, line dancing, bingo, Bible study, movies, cribbage, mahjong, pinochle, computer, bridge, CHEER home services and scheduled trips.
For people who can’t drive, transportation is available for grocery shopping, banking and other necessities. The building is also available for rent for special events.
CHEER started with its first center 35 years ago in Slaughter Neck. In April, the Greenwood Center will celebrate its 34th birthday. In May, Georgetown’s center will be 34 years old and in July, Roxana’s will celebrate 34 years. They now have seven centers county-wide.
CHEER has had a presence in Ocean View for 17 years and has been in their center on Cedar Neck Road two years this summer. They are a private non-profit dedicated to serving the needs of adults ages 50 or older in Sussex County. To learn more, visit www.cheerde.org online or call (302) 539-2671.