This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.
When Mechanicville native Lois Celeste was hired as executive director of the Saratoga Senior Center 11 years ago, she had years of experience working with a wide variety of people—children in foster care, juvenile delinquent boys, domestic violence survivors…but not seniors. “I said [to the hiring committee], ‘I’ve worked with many populations, and this is just a population I’ll get to know,’” she says. “’You’re hiring me to run an organization and get it back on its feet.’”
That all-business attitude flew out the door as soon as Celeste met some of the center’s members. “I fell in love with seniors,” she says. “This population has more wisdom than any of us can ever imagine.”
Located behind Congress Plaza on Saratoga’s West Side (though not for long—a new Senior Center located on the Saratoga YMCA campus is in the works), the Saratoga Senior Center is a nonprofit, non-residential community center that serves Saratoga County residents over the age of 50 with programs, trips and social activities. “We do the bridge and the Mahjong and the bingo—everything you think a senior center would be—but it’s so much more,” Celeste says. “We have Tai-Chi and yoga classes and strength training and we take trips all over the world. The idea is to socially connect people, which is such a huge mental health and physical health benefit.”
In addition to its daily programming, the senior center offers a host of support services, including its volunteer match program, which pairs seniors in need with volunteer community members to help them with daily tasks. And when the pandemic made in-person gatherings impossible, Celeste and her team stepped in, helping seniors get up to speed on Zoom and hosting many regularly scheduled programs virtually. “During COVID, all of us were really burned out, because we didn’t see our seniors,” Celeste says of the center’s staff. “There are a few folks that come in and tell me, ‘Thank you so much for everything you do—this changes our life.’ And that’s really what motivates all of us.”