New elderly director excited to serve area seniors

Jayne Gottschalk is excited to succeed Noreen Weems as Marion County?s elderly director and to live as a new resident of Lehigh. ?Every day here is such a warm experience,? she said. ?There is always a senior citizen who stops to share blessings or needs.? Jerry Engler / Free Press. Click image to enlarge.


Jayne Gottschalk grew up playing cards, dominoes and Scrabble with senior citizens in her parents? cafe in Geneseo.

She said her folks, Elden and Irene Prester, owned several businesses in the town where she spent all 12 years of grade school and high school. She remembers getting up to open the cafe at 3 a.m. during wheat harvest to feed grain cutters early breakfast.

Gottschalk never lost her affinities for the elderly and small towns. She smiles with the pleasure it is bringing her to succeed Noreen Weems as Marion County?s elderly director, and to live as a new resident of Lehigh.

?I truly feel blessed to live in such a warm and welcoming community,? Gottschalk said. ?It feels like living in the country again, but having neighbors close enough to watch over.?

Of course she did have added impetus to move here. Her grandson, Brienon Carter Ekum, ?the new little man in Grandma?s life,? will be born the end of August to join parents Kimberly, 22, Gottschalk?s daughter, and Cody, her son-in-law, in nearby Galva.

Gottschalk said Kimberly is a nurse who will change to working daycare while raising her daughter, and Cody is a car parts store manager. They began as best friends in school, then ?fell in love? after not seeing each other for four or five years.

Gottschalk had landed in Wichita for 16 years, she said, where she held jobs from sales to veterinarian?s assistant winding up as district manager for a safety company??but this is a lot better,? she added.

Her sons both live within 100 miles. Cole, 27, is an accountant in Wichita, and Tyler, 26, is a carpenter in Manhattan.

Gottschalk spent her first two weeks on the job in May with Weems, but she feels like more would have been better. Weems was elderly director for 27 years, so all of the activities just to see her off have been extensive.

Despite that, or perhaps because of being included in it, Gottschalk has found her welcome very warm and inclusive. Being someone who serves 11 senior centers is something she finds exciting and fun.

?Every day here is such a warm experience,? she said. ?There is always a senior citizen who stops to share blessings or needs. The seniors always seem to go that extra mile to put a smile on someone?s face.

?That?s what?s rewarding about this position?it all comes from the heart,? she continued.

?Seniors stop in my office to keep me updated with medical needs and home care needed, and just general conversation.?

She has specialists like Virginia Downing there to help with the specialized needs of seniors on questions about Medicare, Medicaid and insurance needs.

She pointed out seniors at the Marion center, where her office is located, as examples of the best of what Marion County offers. For instance, Ivanlee Tim arrives at 6 a.m. to open the doors for other seniors, and to do things like adjust utilities, to get everybody going.

Gottschalk said volunteer seniors like Leonard Klassen drive to get commodities or help where they can.

She looks forward to going to at least one senior center potluck monthly, maybe more, where she can meet more people and experience more activities.

She is preparing for the monthly board meeting June 15 in Burns and the community potluck June 13 in Lehigh.

Gottschalk said she never tires of tending to the concerns of seniors, like a gentleman who recently asked her to call his relatives to find out why his air conditioner was in his driveway. It turned out they were in the process of upgrading his home for him.

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