Active Living Center directors plan changes

By Josette Keelor

Participants in a fitness class at Warren County Active Living Center weren’t too sure of their new director, at first.

Terry Byrne, who started on July 1, asked them to give her seven minutes of activity, and she remembered them telling her, “Oh, we can’t do that.”

“And 25 minutes later I stopped them,” she said. The class was part of a June 25 beach party that Byrne planned toward the end of a two-month stint as interim director, before her job became official.

As director, she said, “I will do things different from how they have done [things] before.” All she asks is that participants who used to sit on the sidelines give her the opportunity to let them participate. “Haven’t had anyone complain about what I’ve done yet.”

One of two new Active Living Center directors for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, Byrne said she’s planning plenty of fun programs.

“I have a lot of energy and I would like to see the seniors active,” she said. “I’m not used to just sitting. I’m going to make it an active living center again.”

At the Frederick County Active Living Center, Director Diana Brill-Tharpe also has big expectations of change since she started on July 9.

Previously director of the Winchester Active Living Center for three years, she has experience working with the mentally and physically disabled and wants to assist in spreading awareness of the Agency on Aging’s programs.

“I would like to create a balance,” she said.

“What we intend to do is have community members come in and increase health awareness,” she said. “I would like for all the participants to be aware of how to ensure that they have the appropriate hygiene, the appropriate tools to deal with whatever they may incur in their life, meaning end of life as well.”

She also plans for flu clinics and blood pressure analysis, programs on health, food, exercise recommendations, socialization and entertainment.

The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging runs Active Living Centers in the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, with two other centers in Fort Valley and Winchester.

Mary Ann Gardner, nutrition specialist for the agency, said she hopes the appointment of the two new directors will help increase the volume of people the agency serves.

“Each center is really different,” she said. “I’m so excited that we have two new directors.”

Byrne started volunteering at the Warren County center two years ago when she signed her mother up for the center’s programs. Then this spring Byrne applied for a position of cook, but when she came in to interview, the Agency on Aging thought she would be a better fit as director. Once she thought about the opportunity, she agreed.

Her job experience is heavy on law enforcement — 17 years with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and another seven with the Warren County Jail — but she also volunteered for two years at Greenfield Senior Living, which has locations in Strasburg and Woodstock.

“I went from a career that I was comfortable and knew what to do to ‘Aagh.'”

Both jobs are big ones, but she and Brill-Tharpe have a lot of ideas.

Byrne searched yard sales and thrift shops for mismatched tea sets to use at a recent morning tea in Warren County. Online, she asked Facebook users for donations of crocheted items to use in the center, and one early responder donated nine items.

“The response I’m getting is overwhelming,” Byrne said.

In Frederick County, Brill-Tharpe’s goal is increasing awareness of what the center has to offer.

“I am just very anxious and looking forward to working with this group, getting to know them, hoping to make a difference.”

Contact the Warren County Active Living Center at 540-635-8652 and the Frederick County Active Living Center at 540-869-2444. Contact the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging at 540-635-7141 or http://www.shenandoahaaa.com.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com