By Stefanie Donahue
One hug at a time, Kathy Sitker is getting to know the community at the Blaine Senior Center.
Sitker took over as director in late August following Dana Hanks’ July announcement to retire after several years with the organization.
With just a week of experience on the job, Sitker said the hugs and smiles were what she enjoyed most.
“It’s a great place,” she said. “I’m glad I’m here.”
Prior to joining the team at the Blaine Senior Center, Sitker claimed the title of executive director at Bellingham-based nonprofit, The Alzheimer Society of Washington. The volunteer-run organization aims to educate the public about dementia-related diseases.
Among other services, Sitker and the volunteer staff with The Alzheimer Society of Washington held 16 support groups per month for caregivers and those afflicted with dementia-related diseases. One of the support groups is held at the Blaine Senior Center.
Sitker’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and her mother, Parkinson’s. Sitker’s role with the Alzheimer Society placed her in close proximity with a community coping with the implications of a life-altering disease. Providing support to them was near and dear to her heart, she said.
After four years on the job, she felt it was time to try something new and pursued the opportunity in Blaine.
Communities like the Blaine Senior Center play a significant role late in life, she said. She added that it’s important to have the opportunity to develop close relationships, no matter the age. As director, Sitker said she is set on making sure that folks at the center enjoy their golden years.
“It’s their place,” she said. “I want them to be happy. I want them to be safe. I want them to have fun.”