Heart for the Saints

by Michelle Floyd

Newton County Senior Services Executive Director Freda Reed has made it her life’s work to keep area seniors active and engaged.

Options for senior citizens in Newton County extend far beyond sitting on porches, playing bingo and drinking coffee all day long, and Newton County Senior Services Executive Director Freda Reed has made it her mission to make sure they stay as active and engaged as possible.

More than 400 seniors from mostly Newton County—they also come from surrounding Rockdale, Henry and Morgan counties—are involved at the Newton County Senior Center at Turner Lake Park. About 60 to 70 of them pay daily visits to the center, which services residents 55 years of age and older, providing them with recreation and information. Roughly 40 residents are part of a choir, while others enjoy ceramics, strength-building exercises and line dancing. 

“We don’t have a pool here, but we have just about everything else,” said Reed, who has served as the center’s director since 2016. She worked previously as assistant director, event coordinator and administrative assistant. Prior to arriving at the center, Reed applied her skills in a corporate environment for more than 20 years. She started volunteering at the center and handled mostly clerical work after having lived in Covington since the 1970s. When her day job started to transition staff to other areas, she decided it was time to leave and accept a position that soon opened at the senior center.

“I’m glad God put me in this field. It’s been a great experience,” said Reed, who manages 13 staff members—four full-time and nine part-time—and a host of volunteers. “When I first started working here, I was more business-like and detailed, but with this job, you’ve got to work with your heart and listen to the seniors and help them solve problems. I think they deserve the best.”

Reed enjoys being around those she serves.

“They’ve taught me how to grow gracefully in age. You’re involved with their lives and wisdom that they pass down to you,” she said. “I’m 65 myself. People keep asking me when I’m going to retire, but I always say I don’t know because I just love my job.”

“They’ve taught me how to grow gracefully in age. You’re involved with their lives and wisdom that they pass down to you. I’m 65 myself. People keep asking me when I’m going to retire, but I always say I don’t know because I just love my job.”

Newton County Senior Services Executive Director Freda Reed

Others have taken notice of her work. Reed was named the Aging Disabilities Resource Center’s Senior Center Director of the Year in 2019.

“I just love her,” said Annette Cody-Clark, a 75-year-old Covington resident and senior center member. “She’s a Christian lady, wife and mother who is very kind, considerate and compassionate.” Cody-Clark pegs the senior center as the primary reason she gets out of her home. She has been a member for roughly 15 years. “I get to meet other seniors every day,” she said. “I love learning about other people and other cultures, and we share our culture with them.”

Some of the seniors even take to the road to meet those other cultures. While many plan day trips to local venues, others visit countries like Africa and England as part of the Travel Club. “They’ll go anywhere,” Reed said. The center also offers on-site and home delivery meals, workshops and transportation. Local senior center members pay $50 per year for membership, while other services sometimes cost an additional fee. Thanks to the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by county residents during an earlier election, the center will undergo an expansion this year that started with a groundbreaking in January and is expected to be completed by September. The expansion will double the fellowship hall, allow for more room for activities and expand the administrative offices.

“Our center operates on the kindness of others, with volunteers and financial support,” said Reed, who pointed to the local, state and federal funding the center receives. “We couldn’t do what we do here without others.” 

For more information on the Newton County Senior Services, call 770-787-0038 or visit co.newton.ga.us/227/Senior-Services.

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