Amy Mallett, Hood River Valley Adult Center executive director since June 2016, has a long history of working with seniors. She served as senior director of the Goleta Valley Community Center for 12 years, and, most recently, program manager of Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens, Area Agency on Aging, for a year, located in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in California.
She’s been at the senior center since June, and has found her new position to be “a great fit. I love working here,” she said. “This is a great community. Everyone is always ready to jump in, always ready to help. They care about their neighbors.”
Everything at the center is designed to benefit seniors, be that Meals on Wheels, thrift store proceeds, card games or health events.
“It’s totally a team effort,” she said of the crew, most of whom are volunteers. “It’s a great team we’ve built here.”
That team has helped revamp the center’s thrift store, start a travel program and identify creative ways to raise additional funds for Meals on Wheels.
“We completely went through the thrift store — we’ve got a great crew down there,” she said. The donations received are mostly “quality stuff,” she added. “It’s probably the cheapest thrift store in the area.”
“We do get amazing treasures,” said Sally Fairchild, thrift store volunteer and board member.
Mardi Gras and Gumbo Throw Down details
Doors open at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tickets are $20 presale and $25 day-of; only 200 will be sold. Credit cards are accepted.
Enjoy a buffet-style dinner, try different styles of gumbo in the Throw Down competition, listen to a live big jazz band, enter to win door prizes, and bid on silent auction items. A bar will also be available. This is a 21 and over event.
To enter the Gumbo Throw Down, contact Mallett or Reka Sieverkropp, executive assistant, at 541-386-2060.
To help move merchandise, the last Saturday of every month is half-off day.
“Not the jewelry, and not furniture, but everything else” is discounted that day, Fairchild said. “We get so many donations and we just want to clear it out to make room (for new items).”
Mallett noted the thrift shop’s book section, where all children’s books are free.
“We always take books,” she said. “Especially kids’ books. Spanish books are helpful,” she added, as Anna Williams, MSW program coordinator, Volunteers in Action at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, takes them for her own volunteers to read to Spanish-speaking patients.
One problem they are working to solve: A lot of dumping happens when the center is closed. Mattresses are common — by law, they’re not allowed to sell them — as are items that hold emotional value to the giver, but are essentially junk. When they receive items that have no resell value, the center has to pay for garbage pickup. And that eats up funds.
While the thrift shop is a mainstay, the travel program got underway in January, when Mallett led a group on a trip to New Orleans.
“It was a good trip, a good beginning to our travel program,” she said. She’s now looking into day trips, and has six or seven seniors interested in a future trip to Ireland — though they’ll need 15 to 20 signed up to make it happen. A trip to Las Vegas is also in the works.
“Right now, in this political climate, we will make sure the places we go are safe,” she said.
While in New Orleans, the group went shopping for Mardi Gras items — each member took an extra suitcase for that purpose — for the center’s first ever Mardi Gras celebration, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25. It’s one of the creative ways the center hopes to help raise much needed funds for Meals on Wheels.
The event will feature a Gumbo Throw Down competition, in which participants bring in a pot of pre-cooked gumbo, decorate a small table, and furnish samples to partygoers to see who takes home the trophy.
Only 200 tickets will be sold, and the event will further feature a buffet, music and silent auction items (see sidebar for more details). Tickets are available now at the front desk for $20 and will also be sold at the door for $25 on the day of the event as space allows.
Because the center runs on donations, Mallett said they can always use more volunteers.
“You can work upstairs, downstairs or for Meals on Wheels,” she said. “Four-wheel drive and not being afraid of the snow is a plus.”