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Lana Whitlock steps into role as executive director of Senior Center
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Senior Center board of directors chairman Dennis Kronlege is pumped up that Lana Whitlock is on board as the facility’s new executive director. Exercise programs are a daily offering at the center.
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Connie Smith is dancing into retirement with new husband Mark Dombeck, her grade-school sweetheart. Smith leaves the Senior Center after 4.5 years as executive director.

It hasn’t taken long for Lana Whitlock to get cooking as the new executive director at the McMinnville Warren County Senior Center.

She was in the kitchen Friday morning flipping pancakes for the weekly breakfast that featured a feast of scrambled eggs, sausage and fresh fruit.

“She’s come out of the gate strong with really a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy,” said Dennis Kronlege, chair of the Senior Center board of directors. “Of all the applicants we interviewed for this job, she told us not only her vision for the center but her plan for making it happen. Like any organization, we have to adapt to the needs of the people we serve and those needs change.”

Whitlock takes over for Connie Smith, who served 4.5 years as Senior Center executive director. Smith is retiring to spend more time with her new husband.

“I got married to my grade-school sweetheart,” said Smith, who noted she first took an interest in Mark Dombeck in fifth grade.

Smith said her years at the Senior Center were memorable, but now her goal is to spend more time traveling. One upcoming trip will have her visiting her son in Australia. He owns a surfboard company there.

In reflecting on her work at the Senior Center, Smith said, “I’m excited I got to focus on things that are important like exercise, diet and nutrition. We’re up to nine exercise sessions a week and offering things like line dancing, which has been shown to help with dementia.”

Smith plans to stay in Warren County and says her volunteer work will increase. She might even volunteer a few hours at the Senior Center.

That sounds good to Whitlock, who officially took over as executive director on Friday. She has a full agenda of ideas she’d like to implement, but she needs workers to make it happen.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, even if it’s just a few hours a week,” said Whitlock. “Younger people are encouraged to volunteer too. The people here thrive on conversation with different age groups. It’s good for socialization to have younger people here.”

Whitlock knows it’s a busy time with Fair Day registration currently underway and new programs she wants to implement.

“I’m not changing up the world,” said Whitlock. “I’m just expanding on what Connie had in place.”

The Senior Center offers two meals a week which are open to the public. On Wednesday, lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Friday it’s breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. The cost is $4.

Weekly computer classes are a popular program, offered every Tuesday at 1 p.m.

 “They can bring their own computer or use one of ours,” said Whitlock. “If it gets too big, we can add another class.”

When it comes to activities, the Senior Center offers just about everything. There are games like billiards, Rook, Bingo and even Name That Tune. Karaoke is offered every Thursday night beginning at 5:30 p.m. Exercise classes are a daily occurrence and road trips are taken a couple times a month.

When all else fails, there’s always a meal.

“We like to eat,” said Whitlock.

The Senior Center is located in Westwood at 809 Morrison Street. Stop by for a monthly calendar of events. The phone number is 473-6559.