A team of four people aims to be the face and leadership of Mill Race Center next year, pending the center’s board approval a few months from now.
They will fill the gap created by the retirement at year’s end of executive director Bob Pitman after 29 years.
“We very much anticipate they will want to move forward with the team next year,” Pitman said.
Beth Parkhurst, marketing coordinator and one of the four leaders, has worked with a variety of nonprofits in Columbus.
“It’s very difficult for today’s nonprofits to find a leadership talent who has a background in all the different areas that an agency needs,” Parkhurst said.
“I’ve been in nonprofits long enough to know that, you ask someone to come in as a new executive director, and suddenly, they need to be knowledgeable in human resources, marketing, finance, membership, fundraising and building management.
“We simply asked, ‘Isn’t it possible to devise a team of experts?’”
That approach grew from a $9,000 2012 Heritage Fund grant that helped center leaders assess its future and map a five-year plan through 2017.
Besides the part-time Parkhurst, who has been with the center for a year-and-a-half, that team included part-time development coordinator Paula Herlitz, in place since November 2011; Cindy Chodan, part-time program and membership coordinator since June 2012; and full-time director of operations Dan Mustard, hired in March.
About Mill Race Center
Where: 900 Lindsey St. on the edge of Mill Race Park in Columbus.
Current facility: Finished in 2011.
For: People 50 and older, although younger rehab patients of Columbus Regional Health use the center’s state-of-the-art fitness center.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.
Membership: $50 per year, but leaders regularly allow prospective members to come be a part of activities (except for the fitness center) for a month before joining. There are 2,300 members.
Activities: Health and nutrition classes; exercise classes; wood shop; billiards; doll-making for sick children; euchre; local, state and national trip packages; support groups; service clubs; meals program; discussion programs; Silvertones senior choir and more.
Information: 376-9241 or millracecenter.org.
Most of the time, the group will make decisions as a team, said Lynne Sullivan, the center’s board president.
“We feel we have a unique situation,” Sullivan said. “They work together so well and so beautifully.”
If a decision absolutely must be made by one person, that probably would fall to Mustard, the only full-time employee of the four, Sullivan said. The foursome laughed when asked what they possibly fight about.
“That would be who’s going to pay for lunch,” Chodan said, adding that staff members sometimes nearly have competed to treat their peers.
Nearly each of the four highlighted their biggest challenge as sufficiently meeting the needs of the extensive age span of the 2,300-member Mill Race Center clientele. Members range in age from 50 to 101.
Pitman classifies those into three age groups: 50 to 64; 65 to 80; and 80 and older.
Activities at Mill Race Center include exercise classes and a state-of-the-art fitness center; a fully functioning wood shop; doll making; computer and other classes; local, statewide and national trips; support groups, Friday Night Live entertainment and other offerings.
Mustard said his background with Gateway Services of Johnson County was very team-oriented. He also finds similarities between some of the obstacles faced by disabled people and some faced by seniors, including changes in health and mobility.
“I’m at the younger end of the typical group we serve at the center,” Mustard said. “One of the things we need to do is find additional ways to appeal to folks in my age range.”
Chodan coordinates monthly gatherings for prospective new members so they can try out the center’s programs for a few weeks.
“We want them to have a way to initially connect with us so they can come back and feel comfortable here,” Chodan said.
Herlitz said the foursome’s mission is wide-ranging.
“We have the remarkable opportunity to help people embrace healthy aging,” Herlitz said. “As a team, we definitely want to continue to build upon the legacy Bob has built.”
The new Mill Race Center leadership
Beth Parkhurst, part-time marketing coordinator who has worked for a variety of nonprofits. She has been aboard for a year-and-a-half. Her marketing campaign and personal profiles of United Way of Bartholomew County supporters a few years ago generated substantial buzz.
Dan Mustard, full-time director of operations hired in March. His responsibilities will include duties from overall business management to maintaining the center’s links with partners such as Columbus Regional Health. He boasts years of experience working with disabled people through Franklin’s Gateway Services of Johnson County.
Paula Herlitz, part-time development coordinator responsible for fundraising including grants since November 2011. Her background in banking and foundations has helped her build solid financial support, center leaders say.
Cindy Chodan, part-time program and membership coordinator since June 2012. She came to Columbus in the late 1980s to lead what is now Just Friends Adult Day Services located in Mill Race Center. She has a degree in gerontology.