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Putting seniors first
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Though Josephine Brown was surprised when she found out she had been awarded the 2007 Outstanding Senior Center Manager of the Year Award, her staff and those seniors who have benefited from the numerous programs provided by Newton County's Senior Services over the years surely weren't.

Brown, who has served as executive director of Newton County Senior Services for 37 years - since the program's inception - said she was shocked to learn she had won the award from the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Aging Services. In fact Brown said she didn't even know her staff along with the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center had nominated her in the first place.

"It's a humbling experience," Brown said. "Of all the accolades I've gotten, this has been the most humbling."

This is the first year the Division of Aging Services has had the award.

Edna Jackson, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Resources said that Brown was chosen as this year's recipient of the award because she set an outstanding example of a senior manager with her many years of experience.

"She took the center from a one room building to a full complex at Turner Lake," Jackson said. "The award is a recognition not only of the great work that this person has done but also of the importance of the senior service manger to the work of the aging network in Georgia."

According to Jackson, Brown was selected from a group of 12 nominees, representing each of the 12 service areas of the state.

A former high school history and literature teacher, Brown was appointed executive director of Newton County Senior Services after serving as the first director of Newton County's Head Start program for a number of years.

"I guess I'm a pioneer for firsts," Brown said of her career.

Brown said she couldn't have won the award without the hard work of her staff of eight full time employees, four part time employees, auxiliary contractors and a barrel of volunteers. In addition Brown says the love and support of her mother who recently passed away, her two daughters and her church - Graves Chapel A.M.E. Church - has also helped immensely.

 "Receiving it means my work was not in vain," Brown said. "What I have done was not for me and my glorification but for the people in my community."

Brown said she has been enormously gratified to see the improvements in the lives of the county's seniors, some of whom she has worked with for over 30 years, as a result of the programming offered by Senior Services. Brown estimates that Newton County Senior Services works with between 275 and 300 seniors every day.

As executive director of Newton County Senior Services, Brown has worked hard to bring quality programming to the seniors of Newton County. A sampling of the programs offered by the department includes home delivery meals and congregate meals at lunch time, transportation to and from the Senior Services facilities at Turner Lake, a health and wellness program called Project Enrichment, a literacy program, an arts and crafts program, computer classes, dance classes, a walking group, a kinship program and the renown Red Hat Society. Tennis and golf classes are also in the works said Brown.

"I want them to have a wholesome lifestyle," Brown said of the county's seniors. "Even though they have reached their golden years it does not mean they are complacent."

As part of that wholesome lifestyle, Brown said her department works to keep the county's seniors involved with the community, especially with younger generations through mentoring programs.

"I want them to realize that they are never too old to learn and have adventures," Brown said.

In her time as executive director Brown said one of her proudest moments was when Newton County Senior Services finally took possession of the rooms assigned to them at the Turner Lake Complex in 1999. Getting to that point took 20 years of hard work said Brown. Previous to that Newton County Senior Services had never had a permanent home.

"It was always my dream to have a setting where the seniors were not confined to one room," Brown said.

However Brown said her department is beginning to outgrow even Turner Lake. Within the next year, Brown said she is hoping to bring some ideas to the table as to where Newton County's Senior Services can be located next.

As the county's population of Baby Boomers begins to retire, demand on the county's Senior Services is swelling. To that end Brown is working on some new programming for the Baby Boomers, who she says are a very active group and are interested in taking more overnight traveling trips as well as possibly some college courses at Georgia Perimeter College.

"That's our challenge for the new year. We want to meet that need for the Baby Boomer group," Brown said.

Though she has had a long career as a public servant, Brown said she isn't thinking about retiring just yet. When she eventually leaves her post as executive director, Brown said she envisions herself continuing to work with Senior Services as a consultant.

"I think I have a lot to offer in terms of the aging population," Brown said. "I do not want to be in total retirement. I want to do some traveling. I just don't want to sit at home."