LAURINBURG — When she started working at Scotland Place Senior Center nine years ago, Doris Ann Donovan was only looking for something to do.
Last week, she was bid farewell by a group of coworkers and program participants who can’t imagine the place without her.
“I’m going to miss all of the wonderful people and the fun we’ve had, but it’s time,” said Donovan, who will retire on Dec. 22. “When I joined I thought I’d probably work a couple years and be done, but then it was just fun and it kept growing.”
Donovan’s retirement party was held last week in conjunction with the annual Christmas party, bringing in about 100 senior citizens and community members to say their goodbyes and celebrate the season. Donovan will pass on her position to Haley Powell, but she will continue to volunteer at the center.
She originally moved to Laurinburg after retiring from a career in psychiatric care from a health department in Maryland. Shortly after moving with her husband, she picked up the senior program director position at the center.
“I was sitting in the house and I was like no, this isn’t enough for me, I need more,” she said.
During her time at the center she added classes such as “a matter of balance,” “Medicare 101” and “lunch with Doris,” which was a program created to assist seniors with arthritis and promote exercise wellness.
“It really has been a fun experience, I love working with people and seeing people happy,” Donovan said. “My husband and I are at the point where we want to do some little trips and we just need to do things together now.”
Donovan said she stayed so long because of her co-workers and how much fun they had. She will continue helping the center by volunteering with the Medicare program.
“Doris Ann has worked with the county for about nine years and she’s vastly improved our senior programs,” said Shannon Newton, Scotland County Parks and Recreation director. “She’s got a lot of activities going on and we just wanted to recognize her.”
Donovan received an appreciation award from the Seniors Health Insurance Information Program — SHIIP — that provide services to Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers.
“She started a number of activities, changed from having one exercise class to five days a week and we used to have three clubs, now we have seven or eight,” Newton said. “What she’s done has been good for the older population in Laurinburg and Scotland County.”
Activities consisted of crochet, bridge and other senior-friendly pastimes.
“She’s really brought a lot here, I just started working with her on September 28 and I’ve learned tons from her already,” said Tammy Jacobs, office assistant. “She’s full of life, vibrant and keeps us going — she’s the general and I’m really going to miss her.”
Donovan was nicknamed the general by parks and recreation athletic superintendent Al Blades, who noticed immediately she loves being in charge.
“She has a great personality, she works great with any and everybody as long as you let her be in charge,” Blades said humorously.
She will be missed by more than just her co-workers.
“I have never met anybody like her and I’m going to miss her,” said Hazel Pace, a senior at the center who Donovan helped with her disability papers. “I appreciate her so much, she was such a blessing to me.”
“I come here to exercise and when the exercise instructor is out she takes their place and we have a wonderful time with it,” said Margaret Brigman. “She’s going to really be missed, we love her and we hope she has a wonderful retirement.”
Donovan teared up during the retirement party, but overall she was pleased with her time at the center and knew it had to come to an end.
“It’s just been a wonderful run,” she said. “It has been wonderful and I love everyone that I work with and the participants that come to the center have brought so much love and happiness to me and my family.”
Gary Knutson and Judy Gray with the Seniors Health Insurance Information Program awarded Doris Ann Donovan with a certificate of appreciation during her retirement party at the Scotland Place Senior Center.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.