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Senior services director getting to know county's centers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With a tight budget and a growing population of seniors, Janie Hamilton has her work cut out for her as executive director of Kanawha Valley Senior Services.

Hamilton, who is celebrating one year on the job, will face challenges head-on just as she has done in other aspects of life.

Hamilton, 56, was named executive director of the nonprofit organization Sept. 20, 2011. She was chosen for the position from 46 applicants by a 25-member board of directors.

She oversees 13 senior centers, including 11 with nutrition sites. She said each center is unique to its respective community.

This past year has been spent getting to know her staff, becoming familiar with the centers and striving to improve the lives of seniors through perseverance.

"I tend to be a visionary and then get impatient with the process of what I want for KVSS, which means the seniors of the Kanawha Valley," she said. "I am learning to be more patient with the process and gaining a better understanding of where we are."

She is a bridge-builder of sorts. Each program has its own set of guidelines, and the requirements are constantly changing. She stays abreast of the new requirements and in tune with the various entities that can provide partnerships and funding.

Results impact countless lives.

"Every day since January of 2011, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 and that will continue for the next 19 years," she said. "Our parents are living longer and in larger numbers. The fastest growing population group is 75 and older."

The fiscal year that runs from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013 will see an $11,000

reduction in state and federal funds.

The agency provides programs ranging from in-home personal care needs and transportation to educational and social activities. There is also a family caregiver program to assist those with Alzheimer's and dementia. Funding for programs comes from donations as well as federal and state grants, the Kanawha County Commission and the City of Charleston.

While funding is tight and needs are numerous, Hamilton knows how to stretch a dollar and face challenges. She said her staff is also topnotch in those areas.

Hamilton considers herself a West Virginia girl because the Mountain State is where she has spent most of her life and where her heart is.

She was born in Utah but moved to West Virginia with her parents when she was 6 months old. Her father, "a late bloomer and free thinker," had gone to Utah to seek his fortune in uranium. When that did not work out, the family returned to Charleston where he worked at FMC and her mother worked as a bookkeeper.

When the plant closed, the family moved to the D.C. area and her father worked in a bottling plant.

"We moved to northern Virginia and I graduated from high school there," she said. "I couldn't stand the transient nature of the area. I came home after high school and got an apartment conveniently located behind my grandmother's house on the bus line."

She worked, went to school and followed her grandmother on visits to help the elderly and disabled.   

Hamilton acquired a sense of adventure and numerous mechanical skills from her father, Frank "Bill" Whitlock, who died in 2008. Her mother, Edith Whitlock, instilled work ethic and manners. Hamilton now shares her St. Albans home with her mother.

From her late grandmother, Helen Hess, she acquired a love for helping others.

Hamilton has been a lifelong learner with a love for reading books that offer information on any number of subjects.

She holds an associate degree in gerontology from West Virginia State Community and Technical College, now the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College. She also has a bachelor's in health sciences with a focus on education from West Virginia State University. She is working toward a master's in adult and technical education at Marshall University.

She is an adjunct professor in the gerontology department at KVCTC. She is the mother of four grown children.

While her schedule may be hectic, she strives to take care of herself physically and spiritually.

"I believe in balance," she said. "I say I am a practicing Christian because it's something I have to work on every day. I pray and meditate before I get up."

She loves people and encourages others to take care of themselves and to learn.

She wants baby boomers to learn about insurance details and what may be covered through Medicare or Medicaid.

"Medicaid is based on income," she said. "Medicare is based on age. I want boomers to find out how it works before they need it or their parents need it."

Hamilton has learned a lot in the first year on the job and is ready to face the challenges that lie ahead. She has ideas for streamlining services, getting volunteers involved, stretching dollars, and incorporating technology to help with programs and reach more people.

"I am not overwhelmed now that I know where we stand," she said.

For more information about Kanawha Valley Senior Services, go to www.kvss.org or call 304-348-0707.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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