Occupationally, Winter has been combining service and her Christian faith since graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 1998 with a psychology degree.
For the first three years, the Iowa native worked at Penn State University for The Navigators, a Christian organization that develops discipleship ministries aimed at college students.
Winter’s work there convinced her she needed additional training in the area of helping people, so she enrolled in a master’s degree program at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
When she completed that degree in 2003, she began working as an admissions counselor at North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, S.D. Her assignment was to visit students attending Christian colleges in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
On her list of schools was Tabor College, and during one of her visits there, she met Shawn Winter, who was an admissions counselor for Tabor at the time.
They met in November 2003, became engaged the following February and on June 19, they were married.
“Our joke has always been, who recruited whom?” she said with a smile.
Karly Winter moved to Hillsboro in April 2004, working part-time as as an office secretary at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church. In January 2005, she became women’s resident director at Tabor, a position she held for a year and a half.
“I had a lot of interaction with kids during that time,” she said.
The Winters briefly moved to the Wichita area, where Shawn had started a new job. But when he was named to succeed Rusty Allen as head coach of women’s basketball at Tabor a few weeks ago, the couple moved back to Hillsboro.
The Winters heard about the opening at the senior center through Don Brubacher, Tabor athletic director.
Karly said the job interested her immediately.
“I’ve always connected with older people and senior citizens, like my parents and their friends,”she said. “I really feel like older people have a lot of wisdom that I can learn. I love hearing their stories.”
As director, the bulk of her job is to plan the daily activities and meal menus at the center—which was another plus.
“I’m really an organizational kind of person and like to think up creative ways to get people involved,” she said. “That’s another piece of the puzzle that really drew me to the position.”
The work schedule—8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday—was to her liking, too.
“I told the board that I’m an early-morning person, so I liked the hours,” she said.
Winter said she’s still learning the scope of the job, but already sees it as being both administrative and social.
“I see myself as definitely taking meal requests each day— and that includes helping people with our carryout program, Meals on Wheels, as well as for the people who come here to eat.
“I also see it as ministering to people who come in and may be struggling, or have had a bad day,” she added.
Networking is another important task, Winter added.
“We’re trying to work with community people to find help as volunteers,” she said “Also, we do some special music and have programs. So it’s going to take a lot of networking—trying to use the resources that are in Hillsboro to bring life to the senior center.”
Winter said she has been received warmly by the center’s patrons.
“They always come and talk to me and say they’re glad that I’m here and give me hugs,” Winter said. “They say it’s been a prayer answered to finally have someone to fill the spot.”
In turn, Winter said she’s hustling to learn everybody’s name.
“I like to stand here (at the front desk) when people come and pay for meals and keep addressing them by name and asking them to remind me,” she said. “I think they have a directory, so I’d like to take that home and study the names and faces so I know them.”
Winter already has some ideas for expanding the activities offered at the senior center. She hopes each day has almost a party atmosphere.
“Whether it’s a national day or Bob Hope’s birthday that we’re celebrating—I’d like to do more things like that, something every day,” she said.
“I could see us having activities like ‘Name That Tune’ or a Scrabble-fest or ‘Wheel of Fortune’—just game days when we can do some different and crazy things.”
Winter is serious about is finding additional volunteers from the community to help at the center.
“We’re always looking for volunteers—especially to deliver meals, do special music and to help in the kitchen in terms of setting tables,” she said.
“That’s what I’m really trying to find more of. We have the same people on the calendar all the time, and I’d like to be able to relieve some of them and bring in new people.”
Winter said volunteers don’t have to be senior citizens, either.
“I’ve already been talking with some students at Tabor College about it,” she said. “I think even high school students could help out in the kitchen.”
Any interested in volunteering at the Hillsboro Senior Center can call Winter during office hours at 947-2304.