Senior Center director Mary Wolff Person of the Year

J. Patrick Eaken

From one East Toledo Family Center representative to another — East Toledo Senior Center director Mary Wolff was named Person of the Year at the 26th Annual Prism Award Ceremony at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center.
        Her presenter was last year’s Person of the Year — the East Toledo Family Center director Jodi Gross. Wolff was nominated by Dave Cutcher, who says his first encounter with Wolff was while playing softball at the Senior Center. Cutcher would later become the softball commissioner.
        “She would have a friendly conversation with everyone on game day while making sure the softball fields were ready for play. Later, she could be seen grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for the players and the fans. ‘Hot dogs, get your hot dogs’ rang through the air.”
        Wolff has worked for the Family Center for over 25 years, serving as director of the Senior Center for the past 20. In her earlier years, she was the administrative assistant to then-Family Center director Tim Yenrick. She initiated a cheerleading program for elementary and junior high students.
        “All were accepted no matter their ability and no one was cut from the program,” Cutcher said. “The first year only eight signed up but by the second year over 100 students participated.”
        They cheered at Saturday basketball games at the ETFC. The program still exists.
        “Mary is and always has been dedicated to engaging with the residents of the community,” Cutcher said. “For example, she created Family Fun Day at the Family Center, a ‘fun’ raiser to encourage families to spend quality time together. There were games, food, rides and much more. It was a huge undertaking, but would bring in more than 1,000 people. Family has always been important to Mary.
        “As director of the (Senior Center), Mary is driven to create programs and provide services that meet the diverse needs of the seniors of East Toledo, Oregon and surrounding areas. She has transformed the center from a place where seniors gathered to play cards and bingo into what it is today.”
        Current programs include a book club, Wii bowling, and Dream Travelers, where seniors are guided through places around the world by a guest speaker. There is also the Red Hat Society, a ladies’ cultural group, the Diamond Club for those 75 years and older who like playing the card game Golf, and senior athletics like volleyball, yoga, basketball, softball, and an exercise class sponsored by Orchard Villa.
        Cutcher says the softball league is another example of Wolff’s initiative.
        “When funding ended for the league, Mary raised monies to continue the program by initiating a chili cook-off fundraiser. This successful event continues to keep the league self-sufficient,” Cutcher said.
        Cutcher says he is most impressed when Wolff works side by side with volunteers and staff, like on Taco Day.
        “At times, orders for 50 or more tacos had to be filled. It was like a well-oiled machine with every part working together. After six hours, I was exhausted but Mary was still going like the Energizer bunny. By the way, the tacos were delicious.”
Endless outreach efforts
        Cutcher notes that the Senior Center is about more than softball and athletics.
        “Under Mary’s direction, transportation became available for seniors to travel from their homes and center to back. This enables seniors to eat a low-cost lunch prepared at the center. Medical transportation is also available. Outreach, housekeeping and chore programs also help seniors with minor home repairs, lawn care and snow removal,” Cutcher said.
        Cutcher adds that Wolff’s “diligence ahs contributed to establishing and sustaining several community partnerships.
        For example, the Toledo Lucas County Library will be hosting free workshops on how to use smart phones, the internet and social media. Students from Navarre Elementary School help plant flowers at the Senior Center, help set up the chili cook-off, and sing at the Senior Center’s Christmas program.
        “The seniors also enjoy having story time with the preschool children,” Cutcher said.
        Students from Waite High School volunteer their help at the spaghetti dinner, and additionally, the seniors may walk the halls at Waite, especially during the winter months. Students from the University of Toledo and Lourdes University have been able to supplement their education by working with Wolff through internships at the Senior Center, too.
        A relationship with the Toledo Refinery has been established. They donate funds and gasoline for the center’s vans and helped install an electric lighted sign in the front yard of the building.
        “Mary likes to keep things fresh as the Senior Center moves into the future,” Cutcher said. “After attending a recent workshop, she is in the process of developing teams to compete in trivia contests.”
        Cutcher says Wolff is currently writing a grant in conjunction with the Area Office on Aging.
        “She is adept at writing grants and hosting fundraisers to secure the funds necessary for the programs and services of the Senior Center. At times, when the Area Office on Aging is considering a new program or service, they will contact Mary for her valuable input,” Cutcher said.
        “Due to the love Mary has for the community, her family contributes to the Senior Center in a number of ways. They prepare food, create crafts, and attend many events. Mary, herself, can be seen making tacos, grilling burgers and hot dogs and setting up a booth at the craft fair.
        “Mary is respected by the seniors, the staff, and the advisory board, in part, due to her work ethic. She is organized, dedicated and goes beyond the call of duty. Mary works tirelessly to uphold the Senior Center’s mission statement: In the Community, Strengthening one life at a time.”


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