An interview with Pam Haverdink, Director of Georgetown Connections.

The Georgetown Senior Center offers a variety of social, recreational, and educational activities for individuals age 55 and over.  We sat down with Director, Pam Haverdink to learn more about the center and the programs they offer.

LPC: Tell us a little about your history.

PH: My background is actually psychology and sociology. I graduated with a sociology degree. Originally I got into a group home doing activities but then a job opened up at the Kentwood Senior Center and I was there for nine years, working just two days a week. When this role opened up, since I live right in Jenison, that worked out really well. It’s funny looking back. I thought I would work with children but I’ve just kept growing into working with the elderly.  Now I’m going on 18 years here as Director of Georgetown Connections.

LPC: What is the role of the Director?

PH: Well, I manage a lot of people. Including the drivers and kitchen staff, I’m up to 16 people now. I have a really great staff, but when I started it was just me and a transportation coordinator and a meal coordinator. Since then, it kept building as I added in more activities for people to do which made it busier and busier. We’ve also made the food program better but now I work a lot with sponsors to make the programs work. It costs a lot of money to make them better as far as making things more fun. I’ve also built up the newsletter and expanded it but now somebody else does that, but I coordinate it still. I kind of help in all the areas. I’m over the trip planning. I’m over the activity planning. I’m over transportation. But my other big role is I also have to do Grant stuff because we do run Georgetown Transportation, so it’s a lot of administrative stuff. My favorite is just to be interactive and use basically my social work and psychology skills. I love being with people and connecting. If someone needs something, I’m all over it.

LPC: It’s a beautiful building you have here. Tell us about it.

PH: So this building was built in 2016. Before that we were in kind of pole building on the other side of the Development Center but they tore that down after this was built.

LPC: That’s great. And about how many individuals do you serve each month?

PH: So last year, in 2023, we saw about 2,200 people come and go in a month.  That was up from the year before which was about 1,900. We were at about 18 – 1,900 before Covid, now we’ve surpassed that, so that’s cool.

LPC: So how were you impacted by COVID?

PH: So we were closed for a big portion of it. We tried a little bit of Zoom. We were doing meals in the parking lot. I worked with Sheldon Meadows and Age Well and we did several of those. Those were awesome. For a while people would come in a pick up a puzzle or books. It was like a revolving door. Then they came back slowly. All the exercises were in the big room. We cleared the whole building out and it was just chairs six feet apart. We were also outside for a time exercising. It’s so weird to think about that, isn’t it?

LPC: It was a crazy time! So what are some of the most popular programs you do on a weekly or monthly basis?

PH: Anything with the word “bingo” in it (laughs). We do regular bingo, grocery bingo, music bingo, etc. Kim gets certain themes, like country music or the 60’s or 50’s. I’ve had to cap out some of our bingo games. We have 8 tables of 8 and we just can’t have any more people. We also love doing parties and having music programs.

LPC: You mentioned trips earlier?

PH: Yeah, so because we have busing we can take the folks on different trips. Probably one of the favorites is lunch bunch where we go out for lunch once a month. In the summer we like to go to Boulder Ridge and the Lantern Festival, things like that.

LPC: So do you only serve residents of Georgetown Township?

PH: Oh we have a lot from Jenison but folks come from Holland, Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, for things like our art classes.

LPC: But the transportation is just for Georgetown Township?

PH: Yes. The GoBus is only for Kent County so we’re able to transport people. Mostly we do transportation to take people to work or to medical appointments. We go all the way out to the Beltline, and all the way out to Holland. It’s funded through MDOT, Georgetown Township and so we’ve tried to keep it inexpensive. I’ve got nine drivers. They’re all part-time and they’re all here because it’s their ministry. They’re not here to make money. They’re really great; great people to work with.

LPC: And in addition to your employees, you have some great volunteers?

PH: Right! I have 55! They run lots of different clubs. A big portion of our volunteers work in the kitchen but like, we have a ministry where women are making quilts for the women’s shelter downtown. And some of the quilts they sell. They have their own account. One time we had a gal that needed a new kidney and she needed to come up with $3,000, and the quilt ladies paid for that.

LPC: Wow! That’s really cool! Just from selling quilts?

PH: And from knitting and crocheting too. And I’ve got a librarian volunteer, and a couple of gals who volunteer to lead Line Dance classes. I also have a guy who volunteers to come and clean jewelry. He used to work for Fox Jewelers. He comes every month and cleans for free.

LPC: You mentioned a newsletter; can people get your newsletter?

PH: Yes. We go through 800-900 in the senior center and we also do a digital blast of like 50,000 or who ever has applied and wants to get that. We also do mailing to everyone in the township.

LPC: Are there any challenges facing Georgetown Connections?

PH: Well, we could use more space! Even though we have this new building from 2016, it’s not ideal because it’s mostly just one big space and the noise can be an issue. Also, for our exercise classes, I feel bad because we have to turn people away. And the folks who are in the classes can feel stressed because they feel they might not get in if they don’t sign up in time.

LPC: Thanks, Pam, for taking time to share so much great information about the Georgetown Senior Center, Georgetown Connections. 

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