Ego is a funny thing… Apparently, I am a member of “The Silent Generation,” those born between 1928-1945. This was a crushing discovery since I automatically and wrongly assumed I was part of the Greatest Generation until I looked it up.
Whoever heard of the Silent Generation? No wonder the boomers never heard us coming. It also turns out the Boomers had most of the great rock bands and agitators. I am so disappointed.
Still, for all the “silence”, some have managed to make their voices heard…through their music, poetry, and advocacy. I think we all know the famous ones. But what about those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make a difference in our own lives?
One such local individual is Eileen McKenzieSullivan.
Eileen retired as Executive Director of the South Sound Senior Services after 38 years of service. Under her guidance, when Intercity Transit routes were reduced in 2001, Senior Services quickly responded with a Transportation Program to help seniors get to medical appointments, programs, and services.
This was followed by finding funding for elders with developmental disabilities looking for resources after their retirement from assisted employment, to start their Inclusion Program.
As housing needs in the South Sound become a greater issue, Senior Services stepped in again, with their Home Share program, linking seniors with extra space in their homes with home seekers looking to rent a room.
Eileen’s many accomplishments did not go unnoticed, and in 2015, when Leadership Thurston County (LTC) and the Thurston County Chamber Foundation announced the 2015 Distinguished Leader Award honorees. Eileen McKenzie Sullivan, Executive Director, Senior Services for South Sound, was one of the recipients.
Although Eileen is now retired, she continues volunteering for the Senior Services. Her sons grew up volunteering at Senior Services, so this is still very much a family affair.
After retirement, she continued to serve Senior Services by volunteering her time driving for the Trips and Tours program. “I got my commercial driver’s license so I can do it, and it’s a great way to meet people,” she explained.
Eileen and her husband Bob continue with the Music Mends Mind Group, bringing music to those who suffer from memory loss and find comfort from the live music provided by this group, which includes singing, and a variety of instruments, including violin, autoharp, piano, ukulele, and guitar accompaniment.
During the recent COVID pandemic, she visited patients who had no family. She is still active with the Tenino Young-at-Heart Theater, the Senior Action Network, The Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council and the Washington State Senior Games.
Currently she is working the halls of our state legislators lobbying for senior nutrition. She also served on the advisory board for a startup now known as The JOLT News.
She is an inspiration, a leader who leads by example, and a role model for us all.
“When you retire, you get busy,” she added with a laugh.
She still would like to spend more time in her garden. “It’s a big yard with lots of projects,” if she can find the time. And travel is still on her bucket list.
Most recently, she received an award from the Olympia Host Lions Club. The Melvin Jones Award is named for the gentleman Melvin Jones, Founder of the International Lions Club in 1917 and most definitely a member of the Greatest Generation.
In its 89-year history, Eileen is the first non-Lion to receive this award from The Olympia Host Lions, and we are proud to have been the club to present it to her.
Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia. Contact her at kathleen@theJOLTnews.com or post your comment below.
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