By Phayvanh Luekhamhan
There may be a changing of the guard at the Montpelier Senior Activities Center, but the faces remain familiar. Former FEAST program manager Sarah Lipton assumed the executive director’s role in August. “It’s a wonderful time to step into this position, running the center,” Lipton said in a phone interview. With a degree in embodied systems and a business background in leadership development, Lipton comes into her new role as a visionary.
“MSAC is really special and what Janna [Clar] built is really important,” she said, acknowledging her predecessor, who remains at the center in a different role. Even though the center is running about half its normal slate of programs because of the pandemic, Lipton is confident that the center could provide even more for its community.
“I can’t help it, I see possibility all the time,” she said. Case in point, Lipton’s first 90 days were spent engaging in a “massive redesign” of the FEAST program, which she’d started as the program manager. These include re-opening the kitchen and bringing the cooking in-house with a staff chef, among other efficiencies. “I’m extremely confident in Kim Myers,” she said of her successor who started in September. The FEAST program is Montpelier’s senior meals program and also runs the Meals on Wheels program. Other current programs include tax clinics, classes, wellness programs, and other support services.
Lipton is passionate about intergenerational communities and developing support services for those aging at home. Her experience writing the book “The Harmony of Dissonance” with her elder cousin helped her to know the “power and potency of loving across generations, what it’s like to be part of a multi-generational family.”
“I would love to see that we’re opening ourselves up at the center to support that intergenerational connection, which is so important and so forgotten in our speedy day-to-day life. All everyone wants is to be connected, seen, heard, loved, and felt.”
Looking ahead, Lipton’s goal this year is to gain accreditation from the National Institute of Senior Centers, which will help guide the work of retooling MSAC’s policies and procedures. She’s looking to button up the operations and foster inter-agency collaborations.
Fundraising is a large part of the job to keep the half-million dollar operation running. Although the Senior Activity Center is a city department, only 20 percent of the budget is provided by allocations from Montpelier and surrounding municipalities. “What we offer is more than other senior centers can offer because of the support of the city,” Lipton said. Still, the annual appeal will be mailed soon, as it is every year at this time.
The executive director role was “a bit of an unlooked-for gift,” she said. “All I wanted to do in my businesses was to have impact. The way in which I love to serve most is to connect with people. Leading the center allows me to do that.”