By Ivan Pereira
Carol Hunt said she never expected to have a prestigious celebration for her retirement as the executive director of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults, but that did not stop the community from giving her a huge send-off.
Community leaders, elected officials and colleagues gathered at the Black Spectrum Theatre Friday afternoon to honor Hunt’s 22 years of work and thank her for her service to the elderly population.
In her two decades at the program, which runs six senior centers throughout southeast Queens, Hunt not only helped to make the nonprofit more efficient but also enhanced its outreach to adapt to the changing needs of its 5,000 users.
Hunt, who had previously worked with the elderly at other positions, including the city Department for the Aging, spoke humbly about her time at the JSPOA.
“The work I do is so much a part of me,” she said.
During her tenure, Hunt helped to secure more funding from the state and city to the various senior centers. The former executive director made sure all the dollars were put to good use.
Hunt ran holiday parties and started meal delivery programs and computer training programs that helped to take care of the seniors. When she noticed a rise in JSPOA users who were diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, Hunt began AIDS awareness programs and classes to combat the rise of the disease in the southeast Queens senior citizen population.
“Of all the many managers I have met, Carol is one of the brightest,” said William Collins, president of the JSPOA’s board of directors.
Hunt was also active in making sure the government did not abandon seniors at their time of need. She constantly lobbied officials in both Albany and Washington for more support to senior centers in New York City and that passion was recognized by the National Institute for Senior Centers.
“For me, she is a great colleague who I call for thoughtful advice,” said David Taylor, chairman of the NISC, which accredited the JSPOA in 1998.
Most recently, Hunt organized a massive rally to protest the city’s planned ï»¿closure of the JSPOA’s Friendship Center, which serves seniors with mental health problems. A few weeks after the December rally, the city reversed its decisionï»¿ upon closing the center in January.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) organized the gala after he discovered that Hunt was retiring without huge fanfare. While attending the JSPOA’s annual dinner-dance fund-raiser in November, the councilman realized it was the last one Hunt would attend and worked with her administrators to give her a treat.
“This happened because it was due,” said Comrie, who was joined by fellow elected officials Councilman Ruben Wills (D-South Ozone Park), state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica).
Hunt, who sits on Community Board 12, said that although she is leaving the JSPOA family as an administrator, she would continue to serve and support it during her retirement.
“I am so grateful for the experience,” she said. “Retirement … I like to think of it as a change.”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.