Ten years is a long time. When I started at the People Plus Center — 10 years ago this month — I was 43 years old and had been divorced for nearly three years. Looking back at it, I realize now that I was emerging from my divorce “coma,” so it was the perfect time to start something new and change my life completely.

My daughters Daphne, Violet and Juliet were 11, eight, and six at the time and had never known me to have a full-time job, as I had always stayed home with them. So it was a big change in our house. Luckily all my girls were in school by then and I could put them on the bus in the morning and head to work.

Then People Plus posted an executive director position and the more I learned about the job, the more I felt it was the perfect fit for me. It combined communication and marketing experience, staff management, knowledge of health, nutrition and fitness programs, a technology background, and even some on-air television experience for the monthly TV show with Frank. And having lost my parents when I was young, I really liked the idea of dealing with the older adult population.

To prepare for the interviews, I met with anyone who would talk to me about People Plus and its history. Mike Feldman, who had been the chair of the board for five years spent well over two hours with me; as did David Knight who has been on the development committee at People Plus for 15 years. Both of these gentlemen knew the history of the organization, were loyal fans of Sig Knudsen, the former (deceased), executive director and both were hopeful to see the organization experience a rejuvenation after a period of change and loss.

And I soon realized there was going to be a steep learning curve. First and foremost, I had never asked anyone to donate money. (Scary!) Also, I had never managed a teen center program, (more scary!). I had never balanced a yearly budget, created an annual fundraising campaign, or coordinated a dinner gala for over 200 people, and I didn’t have a clue on how to manage Frank Connors!

Despite all of these shortcomings, (and Frank Connors voting against it), I got the job. And I have to say though it’s been difficult, it’s also been pretty darn amazing ever since.

Ten years ago we had 486 members. This month we have 1516 members and it grows steadily. We offer nearly 150 activities at the Center every month, including exercise, clubs, games and social events. We see 1000 visits a month at the Center while the members make friends and enjoy their lives.

There’s also been a huge increase in the number of Teen Center Program participants. We’ve gone from six a day to dozens and those numbers are also steadily on the rise. They eat an enormous amount of food, play games, do artwork, and access computers in a safe program that keeps them off the streets.

During COVID, we ramped up our nutrition and delivery services from the Center and have gone from a dozen homebound riders to 651 people who receive transportation and food/pharmacy delivery services from People Plus. And we drive nearly 30,000 miles a year in free transportation; taking folks to medical appointments, dialysis, physical therapy, for haircuts and groceries. We also now offer over 1,000 take-out meals a month for our older adults who are often in need of improved nutrition or variety. And people come for haircuts with Margarita Day who would not feel comfortable doing so anywhere else.

It’s been an amazing decade of growth. With the Brunswick area having such a large number of retired adults, this Center is exactly what the doctor ordered. And it was exactly what I needed in my life as well, as I sought to reinvent myself, create a purpose and show my daughters how to be an independent and successful woman.

Although, one thing nobody told me was that I would fall in love with all of the People Plus members. They are generous, intelligent people who have lived long and interesting lives. They volunteer, socialize, and exercise at the Center and they often think of People Plus as their connection and lifeline to happiness.

We are their family and they are ours. And they’ve become my surrogate parents and I love them. They’ve watched my girls grow up, learn to drive and go to college. They’ve seen me recover from a divorce and then meet the love of my life in Jonathan Edgerton. When he and I married last year I received nearly 100 cards of congratulation from members. And sadly, I’ve lost many members along the way who have shaped both me and this organization.

So last week, the board of People Plus, the staff and our volunteer members surprised me with a 10th anniversary celebration. I received again nearly 100 handwritten notes and cards as well as a handmade apron and a huge beautiful Italian platter from the board of trustees. These gifts and notes of encouragement and thanks mean more to me than I can ever express.

I didn’t know when I took this job 10 years ago that I was being given a chance to make a difference. To work with a wonderful staff of people who create an amazing place for our community. We love coming to work every day and leave every night feeling the reward of making folks happy and improving their lives. It’s incredibly gratifying and I feel honored to have been a part of the People Plus organization for the last decade.

And I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring. Maybe by then, I’ll be writing about grandchildren!

Stacy Edgerton-Frizzle is the executive director of People Plus.

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