NSES' employees (l to r) Robyn Nathan, Supportive Living Services Coordinator and Chris Chirco, Development Manager. Robyn is one of sixteen volunteering at our Gala.

Strong Leadership and Team Work Behind 40 Years of Service; NSES Celebrates with a Gala

On any given day, North Shore Elder Services (NSES) is a hub of activity. As North Shore Elder Services 40th Anniversary Gala on Friday, April 29 quickly approaches, there has been a flurry of activity putting the finishing touches on what promises to be an evening of fun celebration.  Behind the scenes, it has been months in the planning; invitations designed and mailed, location, music and menu chosen, centerpieces and gift bags selected, auction and raffle items gathered, program book created, video produced and a few surprises we won’t yet divulge!  Our theme “Looking Back and Launching Forward” sent us digging through the archive of photos and news clippings, piecing together forty years of service.

It has been a team approach with management, staff and a volunteer committee of sixteen. Orchestrating this team effort, making sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted, is our Development Manager, Chris Chirco.  “The planning of our 40th Gala has been a concerted action on the part of many people.  Staff, former staff, and our generous sponsors have contributed in countless ways from donating and obtaining auction items, to gift wrapping, to promoting the event.  Suffice it to say, there are too many people to individually thank.  In true fashion at North Shore Elder Services, it has been a united team pulling this altogether.”

Besides the plethora of details to be organized, we wanted to invite former staff members and long employed staff to share their thoughts about the past forty years of North Shore Elder Services’ history.

It was 1976 when North Shore Elder Services opened in a basement office of the North Shore Shopping Center. The first and founding Executive Director, Bill Carney, had been the Director of the Peabody Council on Aging.  With the reorganization of State Government, he was called upon to form a Home Care Corporation for the North Shore, separate from the Council on Aging.  “It was important to have a central location that was part of the community and that’s why we located to the shopping center.”

Reflecting on the milestones, Bill adds, “I feel best about getting NSES started. We got it rolling, made mistakes, but we made it work.  NSES has always had a warm place in my heart.  We had a happy staff and it was a great place to work.”

After four years at the shopping center, the office relocated to a building on Lowell Street. It was in 1982 that Janet McAveeney came on board at North Shore Elder Services to work once again with Bill Carney.  Bill had worked with Janet at the Lynn Council on Aging initially.  Janet had been the first person to work for the Council in Lynn.  She started Greater Lynn Senior Services at the same time as Bill created North Shore Elder Services.  Janet took over as Director of North Shore Elder Services when Bill left in 1987.  In 1989 North Shore Elder Services moved out of the Lowell Street location to Sylvan Street.  Janet is proud of having moved the staff out of the Lowell Street building and says, “It was the best thing I did.”

Janet and Gwen Kopka, who joined North Shore Elder Services as the Director of Client Services in 1982, recollected that the only service available at that time was homemaking. “It wasn’t easy finding home makers.  Bill asked the question, ‘How can we provide the services needed?’  We succeeded in getting an agreement with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to add light chore providers, volunteer companions for grocery shopping and laundry assistance.  Next we added personal care, which meant you had to add nurses and that was a huge leap.  It was a dynamic time as services and programs evolved.”

After Janet left North Shore Elder Services in 2004, Paul Lanzikos, became our third Executive Director and continues in that role today. Paul served as Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs from the fall of 1987 until January, 1991 during the last term of the administration of Governor Michael Dukakis.  “I had the privilege of serving during the time the Massachusetts elder service transformed from the provision of home support services such as housekeeping and meal preparation to the offering of personal care and supportive health services.”  In the summer of 2014 North Shore Elder Services moved into our beautiful offices at 300 Rosewood Drive in Danvers.

Mary Neagle, Director of Planning and Development from 1986 to 1994 described her experience working for North Shore Elder Services. “It was an incredibly tight group of people that worked together as a team.  They were incredibly committed to their work.  It was a supportive environment with very passionate staff.”  Mary is most proud of bringing several programs to North Shore Elder Services; Group Adult Foster Care, Money Management, Shine, and Hospital Liaison.  “North Shore Elder Services was on the forefront of a lot of innovation and continues to be.  It has a legacy in that regard.  There were things being done at NSES that weren’t being done elsewhere.”

Mary sees that team work was crucial. “North Shore Elder Services never works in a vacuum.  They are always reaching out to colleagues to collaborate.  I see there is a strong sense of community and that has never faded.  It has become larger and a more integral portion of their work.  It has helped programs to be successful and sustainable.  North Shore Elder Services has been led by three leaders who were great visionaries.  They always had a sense of their team and a commitment to their team.  They always communicated their mission and vision and you felt very clear about what you were there to do, what your goals were, and you felt surrounded by people that had a sense that we are all in this together.”

Another former employee, Suzanne Lanzikos, held several positions at NSES from 1978 to 1988. Besides her work as a Case Manager, she is most proud of bringing the first Nursing Home Ombudsman program to NSES.  “There were lots of challenges but it was so rewarding.  When I think of the things I did for some clients, I realize that would not have happened except for it being North Shore Elder Services.”

“Management always did a good job of supporting staff and it appears they continue that tradition. The agency has had strong leadership and good people working for them and that filters down through the years.”

We have several staff members who have been employees for over twenty years. Case Manager Carol McMillan marks twenty-nine years in July.  “It’s been great.  I feel supported by my peers and by management.  It’s always been about team work all through the years.  You look at administration and the way they treat you….it trickles down from the top.  I can’t say enough about how everyone pulled together to help in my case load when I was out on a medical leave.  They were wonderful.”

Mary Ellen Abodeely, Case Manager for twenty-three years shares these sentiments. “A big reason why I’ve wanted to remain at North Shore Elder Services is because it is a good group to work with.  The Case Managers support one another.  Supervisors have been supportive and listen to the issues and help to find solutions.  Management recognizes that work is challenging and they find ways to support and appreciate.  You don’t get that everywhere.”

Kathy Perrella has managed the Caregiver Support Program for twenty-five years. “You never feel you are on your own.  You can always brainstorm and collaborate with your peers.  It allows thinking outside the box and this team effort means we can provide great services.  There have been lots of challenges through the years with more complex issues but I think we meet those challenges as an agency.”

Kathy calls it the “flavor” of the agency. “Paul goes above and beyond to be inclusive with other agencies and disciplines.  I think that makes the staff feel important and appreciative of the fact that we are liked and recognized in the community.  We are visible.  Our leaders have demonstrated passion for our mission.  For me, it is a wonderful comment about the agency.  People here are recognized for their work and encouraged to be passionate.  That sustains people.”

North Shore Elder Services has much to celebrate about their forty years of service on the North Shore. The combination of strong leadership and passionate team effort has brought us this far and will undoubtedly launch us successfully into the future.

If you would like to learn more about North Shore Elder Services and the opportunities to be a part of the organization, visit us at www.nselder.org.

If you would like to attend our Gala on Friday, April 29, you may purchase tickets at www.regonline.com/nses40

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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