Oxford seniors 'Touched by an Angel'
● By Steven Hoffman
On Friday, Oct. 2, her last day on the job, Peggy Holbrook said that she felt blessed after spending the last 26 years as the Oxford Area Senior Center’s program coordinator.
More than one hundred people attended a retirement luncheon for Holbrook on her last day of work, and each person in attendance seemed to have a different story about why Holbrook had, in fact, been a blessing to them. Some of the people in attendance wanted to thank Holbrook for the fun and friendship over 26 years; others simply wanted to wish her well in retirement.
“She graced us and blessed us for [nearly] 27 years,” said Craig Dorer, one of the people who regularly attended programs at the senior center. “Do you know the television show “Touched by an Angel”? She has been our angel.”
As he presented Holbrook with a plaque honoring her service, Jim McLeod, the executive director of the Oxford Area Senior Center, talked about how there were conflicting emotions on this day. Everyone was happy for Holbrook to have more free time to spend with her family, but her presence at the senior center is going to be missed tremendously.
“We are celebrating a person’s dedication to an organization,” McLeod said. “We’re going to dwell on the happiness of the day.”
McLeod also announced that Oxford mayor Geoff Henry had issued a formal proclamation making Oct. 2 Peggy Holbrook Day in Oxford, and he also presented her with a key to the borough. It was made of chocolate.
Holbrook was hired in April of 1989 as the program coordinator, a position that was still new to the senior center at that time. McLeod explained that the senior center’s origins can be traced back to 1974, when the Meals Together Program started in Oxford. The goal of that program was to offer lunches to low-income senior citizens. The county eventually decided that that program should operate independently in each community. The individual senior centers that formed in the mid-1980s then looked to provide additional programming for seniors before and after lunch.
Holbrook wasn't the Oxford Area Senior Center's first program coordinator, but she very quickly made the new position her own by taking a creative and fun approach to developing the senior center’s programming.
Dian Steffy previously served on the senior center’s board of directors for 18 years, and she talked about how Holbrook dedicated herself to serving others at the senior center.
“Peggy and I traveled together and we planned events together,” Steffy explained. “She was an asset to the Oxford Area Senior Center. She was a great help to me, as well as to everyone else. She is loved dearly.”
By the time McLeod came on board as the executive director in 2001, Holbrook knew all the details about how everything at the senior center ran. In fact, there were several times during the last 26 years when Holbrook served as the executive director on an interim basis. McLeod said that Holbrook's assistance was invaluable as he learned on the job.
“I had to rely on her to educate me as to what was going on,” McLeod explained. “She is a godsend.”
One of the reasons that Holbrook is beloved at the senior center is her fun approach to the job, which was evident as guests at the luncheon waited their turns to talk to her. There was plenty of laughter and cheer.
“I love to have fun,” Holbrook explained. “That’s the spice of life. I’ve only had three jobs in my life, and each one has been a blessing.”
Through the years, Holbrook touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands at the senior center. Making people feel a little better about their day has always been a part of her job.
“Some people can come in here depressed and you can lighten their hearts,” Holbrook explained.
She talked about how much she enjoyed working with the staff, and how much she will miss her colleagues.
“As far as the programs and activities, we have a wonderful staff,” she said. “It certainly wasn't just me. It takes a village.”
Holbrook said that even though she is no longer a senior center employee, she has no plans to stop spending time with her extended family. There is still some work she wants to finish up, and she will be volunteering as well.
McLeod presented Peggy and her husband, Bobby, with a lifetime membership to the senior center.
She’ll also carry with her some great memories.
“I have so many precious memories,” Holbrook said. “It’s been a fun ride.”
She certainly left a lasting legacy at the senior center.
McLeod said that the programming that Holbrook oversaw helped increase the senior center’s participation to between 1,400 and 1,500 people each year.
“A large part of that growth is due to Peggy,” McLeod said. “She is one of the main reasons why the senior center is what it is today.”
“She really helped me a lot when I first came here,” said Evelyn Stumpo, a senior center member. “She’s very generous and kind. We all love her here. I am going to miss her a lot.”