Three founding directors of the Greater Lewes Community Village were honored on their retirement by fellow board members and guests at the home of President Marty D'Erasmo Dec. 13.
Vice President Carol Wzorek and Jennie Keith were presented with plaques acknowledging their contributions since 2010, when planning for the Community Village began. Linda Leonard, who moved to Baltimore this past summer, also was honored. "Each brought her own and very different talents to the development of our village. For these we will always be grateful," said D'Erasmo. "We recognize them for the accomplishments that have been made in this short span of time."
The village is a local, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization committed to helping older adults live in their homes as long as possible by connecting members with volunteer services and vendor resources to assist them to live independently at home. Wzorek said there was much excitement in the early days when it was a hands-on board, staffing what was called the Blue House, a city-owned property at 225 Schley Ave. "We developed policies, obtained nonprofit recognition, decided how to staff our new office, recruited volunteers and did presentations to groups building awareness of our services," she said.
Wzorek worked with Barbara Vaughan, another founding director, to screen a list of vendors - electricians, plumbers, lawyers, accountants, landscapers, lawn maintenance workers and more - so village members could be assured of honest work and feel safe with these workers in their homes. "It was an inspiring time for all of us," Wzorek said. "We all knew that the village was something that was needed here, and that we would need heavy and deep commitment." Wzorek had a professional career in Washington, D.C, first with the Peace Corps where she served in Thailand, and later in a branch of the State Department.
"In the past year, we moved from being in a state of viability to one of permanence," Wzorek said, citing the hiring of the organization's first executive director, Jackie Sullivan, and the receipt of grants from the Longwood Foundation and Fair Play that enabled the village to move to a larger facility in the Russ Palmer building at 16686 Kings Highway.
In her professional work, Leonard, a health information specialist, directed national and international projects at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Academy for Educational Development before moving to Lewes.
Keith and her husband Roy Fitzgerald moved permanently to Lewes in 2007 after spending years as weekend residents. An anthropologist and member of the faculty at Swarthmore College, southwest of Philadelphia, she was the first director of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. "All of my research focused on age, aging and retirement," she said. "The questions I studied and wrote about linked issues of aging and community, so the opportunity to help launch the GLCV was a perfect fit with things I care about both personally and professionally." Keith said her primary responsibilities as a board member were fundraising, policy development and completing many documents needed to get the village officially started. She said the hiring of an executive director was a major step forward in the organization's ability to carry out its mission.
"I think one challenge ahead is to reach out to people who are very likely to need us eventually, but who don't feel ready yet. None of us really likes to think about those 'what if' questions," Keith said. "Fitz and I are grateful that the community village will be here when we need neighbors helping neighbors ourselves. We hope deeply to live out our lives comfortably and safely in our own home here in Lewes. Being a part of this organization can help that happen for us - and for others in the 19958 and 19968 ZIP codes that the Community Village serves."