Marianne LoGerfo is in her niche.
She remembers struggling at age 33 when she returned to graduate school at the University of Washington and wondered if she’d ever find the right career. She earned a Master’s in Social Work at UW, and “I worried sick that I’d never find something I loved,” LoGerfo said.
Now 60, the director of the Northshore Senior Center hasn’t had that worry for the last two decades, and the results are notable.
LoGerfo was recently granted the “Outstanding Woman of Our Community Award” for 2003 by the Bothell-Shoreline American Association of University Women (AAUW). She was presented the award on March 22 at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell.
LoGerfo established food banks in Kirkland, Redmond and Snoqualmie, and started senior programs in Woodinville, Kenmore and Mill Creek, according to Bothell city manager Jim Thompson, who nominated LoGerfo for the award. She also developed the Senior Wellness Project, which has been replicated by 34 centers throughout the state, and managed the campaign to pass a $3.9 million Health and Wellness Facility Bond.
Construction of the Adult Day Care facility that will result from passage of that bond is scheduled to begin this summer, LoGerfo said. The 20,000 square foot building is expected to be complete by the fall 2004. It will be connected by a sky bridge to the Northshore Senior Center, providing services such as a fitness center and caregiver resource library.
LoGerfo said she thinks her involvement in that campaign is why Thompson nominated her. But she is quick to credit others for success of that, and other programs that came together under her leadership.
“I’m only just the face of it,” she said, noting that the Northshore Senior Center has many volunteers and paid staff members that keep it going. “In truth, the whole team works very hard all the time to develop the programs.”
Thompson said he thinks LoGerfo is successful in what she sets out to do because “it’s just Marianne. It’s her philosophy and her way of doing business.” He described her as the “perfect public servant” willing to sacrifice her own life for the greater good.
Friends describe her as humble, and she proves them right when asked about the award.
LoGerfo said she was surprised, but mostly she was pleased at the notoriety her award would bring to the senior center.
“I just love working with the people here,” LoGerfo said.
She is more than a little aware how valid her work is. She spends time talking to seniors who use the programs she develops, whenever she gets a chance.
“I enjoy hearing their stories, and I’m always interested in their ideas and how they manage. A lot of people are dealing with a lot of loss,” LoGerfo said.
She said many seniors are dealing with the loss of a spouse, and the loneliness that can come with aging. Northshore Senior Center has a program to deal with that common scenario. LoGerfo said sometimes a loved one will call on behalf of an aging parent who is lonely and depressed, provoking volunteers to meet with that parent to draw them into the senior center.
“We’ve got lots and lots of classes and activities,” LoGerfo said. Many of the programs at the center came from community suggestions. “Everything we have here is because somebody from the community thought it would be fun or great to do. No one needs to be lonely.”
She said the center also offers programs to help with health, social services, finances and foot care.
And some seniors find a healing element in the act of volunteering. She said some seniors have told her their volunteer work saved their life after the loss of a spouse.
“Even if people are homebound they can volunteer,” LoGerfo said. “There’s lots of ways to be connected so they can help each other and enjoy each other.”
Bill Durham, director of the Greater Mill Creek Senior Center and a friend of LoGerfo’s for 24 years, said she is deserving of the award.
“She puts 100,000 percent into things because she really cares for seniors and that’s the key to this whole thing,” Durham said. “I don’t think (the Northshore Senior Center would) be what it is today without her.”
Her work at the center is a testament to what dreams can do.
Durham said when LoGerfo got the job she came to see him. “She came into my office and she said this was her only goal in life (to be director of the Northshore Senior Center),” Durham remembered.
The transformations she is part of are what motivates LoGerfo.
“To me, it’s very exciting to start with a need that is real, a need that people have expressed, a barrier they have stumbled over … (and figure out) what would make it different for them,” LoGerfo said. “To go from an idea to a reality is very exciting.”
As the winner of an award that recognizes not only her work, but her status as a woman, LoGerfo is a mentor for other career women.
The mother of five, grandmother of seven, has a bit of advice for women struggling with to find a their career path: Don’t sacrifice your dreams, if you can help it. And, most of all, “do something that really uses you up, in a sense … uses all of your skills and talents (in a way that’s) meaningful to you.”