This week’s hunt focused on a different type of appeal. Rather than scouring Stratford for delicacies or places to spend your free time, we are taking a look at a special employee whose time is spent looking out for others.
If there is one name in Stratford that every elder should remember and be grateful for, it’s Diane Puterksi.
Puterski, who in November will enter her eighth year as director of the Stratford Senior Center, plays an integral role in ensuring that seniors get not only the proper care they deserve, but all of the benefits and services -- from social to intellectual -- that they are entitled to.
As director, Puterski is in charge of overseeing all of the different programs that function in and around the Baldwin Center, which serves Stratford’s senior hub. It resides adjacent to the Stratford Library.
Puterkski’s responsibility extends outside of the facility as well. She runs the town’s transportation program for Stratford residents aged 65 or older. The program runs five days a week -- mostly in Stratford -- but also make trips to doctor’s offices in New Haven and Fairfield County. Puterski oversees that the buses are properly running as they should be so that seniors can get where they need to go when they need to go there.
“We’ve enhanced it,” she said. “[The shuttle program] has gotten additional grant money and we’ve added drivers. We’ve gotten better at scheduling.”
The program falls under the umbrella of the Senior Service Outreach Program for seniors in Stratford who don’t come to the Baldwin Center.
Puterski is enthusiastic about her position as well as the current state of the thriving senior center.
“Every day is different,” she said, referring to the challenges that arise on the job. “Something always comes up -- building issues, staff issues.”
Puterski credits her success to her open-door policy. When problems arise, she encourages people to come to her directly so that the issue can be solved. This pertains to both her staff as well as the seniors in the center.
“I can’t fix something unless I know it’s broke,” Puterski said.
Seniors are also encouraged to explore and try new ideas at the center. If a desired program is not offered, sign-ups are drawn and the center will attempt to implement the idea.
“We’re always trying new programs,” Puterski said. With classes such as oil and watercolor painting, computer classes, French culture classes, Qigong meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and creative writing, there is certainly something for everybody at the Baldwin Center -- regardless of age or mobility.
And for those who prefer traditional methods of entertainment, checkers, chess, poker and bingo are also offered.
The center strives to accommodate the needs of two generations of seniors that congregate together in one building. While there are those in their 80s and 90s, there is also the younger generation of those still in their 60s who utilize the facility.
For those who have trouble navigating through multiple rooms, the Baldwin Center offers a special program called CARES, which provides a structured atmosphere where elders can be stimulated both mentally and physically in the space of one room.
Puterski said Stratford has about 13,000 senior citizens, ranking the town second highest in the state for that population group.
Come into the Stratford Senior Center and see the hype for yourself -- September is National Senior Center Month. Upcoming day trips include a Neil Diamond Tribute and lunch at Chez Josef on Oct. 20; Spirit of America with lunch at Grand Oak Villa on Nov. 9; and “Holiday Time” at John J. Sullivan’s in Ansonia, Conn. on Dec. 8 -- lunch also included.
The Stratford Senior Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Baldwin Center is located at 1000 West Broad St. Hot lunch is served daily for those aged 60 and over. A two-dollar donation is encouraged. Membership to the Baldwin Center is also asked, but is not mandatory.
Have you had the pleasure of meeting or working with Diane Puterski? Tell us in the comments section below.