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Worthington YMCA, local seniors win state award

WORTHINGTON -- These workers aren't about to be pushed aside just because they're a little older. In fact, some employers consider them an invaluable resource.

"I believe having seniors and their wisdom involved in ... the day-to-day activities within the YMCA makes us better and stronger everyday," said Andy Johnson, executive director of the Worthington YMCA.

The YMCA was one of six employers statewide to earn an award from the Department of Employment and Economic Development for being an outstanding employer of older workers.

Teodoro Fierro, who works as a general maintenance worker at the YMCA, and LaDee Grant, a clerical assistant at the Nobles County Recorder's Office, were also named as outstanding older workers.

They were nominated by Paula Boehrs of the Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC), a grantee of the federally funded Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Boehrs said award recipients demonstrated willingness to update work skills, high quality of work and leadership.

Johnson said the YMCA's partnership with workers older than 55 years of age is a win-win situation.

"It allows us to fill some staffing needs that we may not be able to fulfill on our own, and also gives the opportunity for some of these senior employees to come in and get some other skills and training," he said.

The YMCA and the two workers were honored at a State Capitol ceremony in late September.

"It was wonderful. It was a really nice day," said Grant, whose rheumatoid arthritis made it difficult for her to re-enter the work force.

She enrolled in SCSEP for help in updating her skills and landed a job at the Recorder's Office, where she has helped with mailings and scanning documents since last January.

"Dee is described by her supervisor as hardworking, dependable, cooperative, and able to work well with other staff," reads her nomination.

"I like the people, I like the work, it's just a really nice place," she said. "I think SMOC is really a great opportunity for a lot of people."

Fierro's nomination form reads he is a "jack of all trades," and says, "He is adept at plumbing, carpentry, painting and can fix or repair just about anything."

"He has fixed doors when we thought we needed a new door. He's not afraid to take on anything," said Johnson of the 74-year-old Mexico native, who has worked at the YMCA for six years.

Fierro said in Spanish he was very surprised when he received the award.

"The work that we do, it's work, yes, but it's nothing magnificent." He said he's just happy to see children have a well-maintained building.

For Johnson, though, the work Fierro and other seniors do is plenty magnificent.

"It adds another flavor to our day-to-day activities. It would be sorely missed if it wasn't there," he said. "Seniors have a lot to offer and because they may have been retired from their original profession they shouldn't be excluded from other opportunities."