A career change was not part of Teri Moe’s plan.
“This was totally out of the blue, totally unexpected. I was going to retire and age out here. That was my plan,” she said of her position as the city of Waupaca’s senior citizen coordinator.
So, when her husband Jay and brothers Chris and Pat Johnson asked her if she would consider filling a vacant position at Johnson Insurance, she initially declined their offer.
“They had a key person who had been there 35 years retire. They asked if I would fill the position. I said, ‘No. I’m fine where I am,'” Moe said. “They asked again. I thought, ‘It’s the family business.’ So, I said, ‘OK.’ I’m excited. It’s a total different change. It belew me away that I took it. It was a very hard decision, but family first.”
On May 7, she ends her career with the city, one which began about 25 years ago.
“I remember when I got hired, I said, ‘I stay at a position three years,'” Moe said. “They told me, ‘It’s part time. You have to stay at it six.’ Twenty-five years later, here I am.”
Moe, who has an occupational therapy background, said her children were getting older when she saw an ad in the newspaper about the senior citizen coordinator position.
She thought the job sounded fun.
When she began working for the city, the senior center was on the corner of Washington and Fulton streets, the current location of The Paint Store.
“It was basically one room. We could basically have one program in the morning and one in the afternoon. I had to tear down and set up for each one,” Moe said.
The center had one pool table, and she started a pool league with eight men.
Today, the senior center has six tables and averages 41 people on its league.
At its previous location, the senior center also shared space with the Parks and Recreation Department office, until the new city hall was built.
After the department moved its office to city hall, “we knocked down some walls and made a computer lab,” Moe said.
Donated computers meant two programs could take place at the same time, and the city hired Kate Lewellyn to teach the computer class.
After the city bought the Hendrickson Center from the Waupaca School District and remodeled and expanded it into the recreation center, the city decided to move the senior center there, too.
“We had exercise rooms, computers labs, two different meeting rooms. We could hold tons of programs at the same time,” Moe said.
Lewellyn made the move to the center and is leaving the city in June. She and her family are moving to Minnesota.
Helen Halverson came on board eight years ago to teach exercise classes, followed by Sue Wunderlich. Both continue to teach classes.
With the addition of more programs came the decision to seek state accreditation for the senior center, a goal achieved in 2011.
“That was huge,” Moe said.
Of the approximately 120 senior centers in the state, 30-some are state accredited, she said.
That was among the highlights during her tenure.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson said Moe “has been a great asset to our department and a fantastic advocate for our senior population within the Waupaca community.”
She increased opportunities for the senior population, he said, something appreciated by the area seniors who say they do not what they would do if they did not have the center.
“The Waupaca Senior Center has grown to 547 members as of 2014 and offers program opportunities such as exercise classes, computer classes, arts and crafts, pool leagues, professional speakers, tax aid and so much more,” Jenson said. “In 2011, the Waupaca Senior Center was accredited through WASC (Wisconsin Association of Senior Centers) thanks to the hard work of Teri and her staff. I would be willing to say that Teri may be most proud and appreciative of all the relationships she has built with her senior members over the years.
Moe said the city will continue offering a variety of programs at the senior center.
Jenson wants to hire someone who will continue on the path the senior center is going, she said.
When Moe begins her new job on May 26, it will be her first time working in the family business.
“I’m excited. I’ve been training already,” she said.
While she is leaving her position with the city, she will be back at the center from time to time to help with projects, including Serenity Park, slated to take place this summer.
“I can’t just let it all go,” Moe said.
She loved working with the seniors.
“The best thing was they came here because they wanted to,” Moe said. “I know we’re successful when I hear all the laughing. And then it’s like, this is a good place to be.”