Camden seniors express support for center director, trips

Jasmine Wilson.JPG

Jasmine Wilson


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, February 7, 2019

CAMDEN — Camden County senior citizens showed up in force this week to voice support for both the county’s senior center director and her coordination of the center’s out-of-town trips for seniors.

The outpouring of support for both Senior Center Director Jasmine Wilson and her leadership on out-of-town trips Monday night comes on the heels of County Manager Ken Bowman’s decision to cancel the senior center’s upcoming planned trip to Ireland.

Bowman said after Monday’s meeting he cancelled the trip because it would have meant too much time overseas for the senior center’s already-limited full-time staff. The center is currently without an assistant director.

“We just don’t have an unlimited staff or budget,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he’s currently looking at developing a policy on out-of-town trips for the senior center that will balance the public’s interest in taking the trips with the need to have center staff on-site for other programs.

Becky Phelps is one of those Camden residents who enjoy taking the senior center’s trips. She was among the large contingent of senior citizens who filled the courtroom for Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. Several county officials remarked that it was the largest crowd they had even seen at a commissioners meeting.

Saying that she was speaking on behalf of many of the seniors in attendance, Phelps said Wilson has done an excellent job as senior center director, and that those who use the senior center know it.

“Jasmine does this whole thing,” Phelps said. “Since she has no assistant she has to do this whole thing by herself.”

Wilson is also inclusive, regularly asking seniors what kinds of activities they would like to have, she said.

Phelps said her favorite activities are the out-of-town trips. Wilson has driven a van herself to take seniors on trips and does a fantastic job planning the excursions, according to Phelps.

“Her organizational skills are top-notch,” she said.

Phelps said the county needs to hire an assistant director for the senior center and ensure trips that already have been planned take place as scheduled. She said some seniors who take advantage of trips offered by the senior center can’t afford to travel any other way.

Bowman said when the Camden Senior Center is fully staffed, it has a director, a full-time assistant director, two part-time employees and a number of volunteers.

While the volunteers are quite helpful they have other interests and obligations and can’t be relied on to work specific schedules on an ongoing basis, he said.

“I can’t count on them to do that,” Bowman said.

Bowman is currently working to fill the assistant director position at the senior center and hopes to have someone in place soon. He said the assistant director position just became vacant a little more than a month ago, and the person who was in the position had only had the post about six months.

He hasn’t re-advertised the position, he said, because he believes the county still has a good pool of applicants from when the position was filled previously.

In the meantime, it’s just not feasible to have full-time senior center staff out of the office for 10-12 days on an overseas trip, he said.

The senior center’s most recent trip was a Carnival Cruise Jan. 3-12. Bowman said that in addition to day trips, two out-of-state trips remain scheduled for later this year: one to New York City on May 20-23, and another to Niagara Falls on Sept. 22-27.