New director takes helm at Hesston Area Senior Center

By Jackie Nelson

HESSTON—After nine years, Marla Sharp will be departing as director of the Hesston Area Senior Center (HAS). The board recently hired Yawna Smith, a Hesstonian, as the new director.

Smith, who moved to the community two years ago, said, “I think it will be an exciting adventure. It will be a fun opportunity to work with the public and with the events that go on in the community.”

As an added service, Smith is a certified public notary and will be offering notary services by appointment for an at-will donation.

Sharp said she is stepping away from the center because, “I’m not retiring; I just felt like it was time for a change.” Sharp will be welcoming her fifth grandchild soon and will be helping her husband launch and manage a telehealth doctors’ network.

“I’m going to miss the people. Over nine years, I’ve made a lot of friends. I think I’ll also miss the fact the community works so closely together,” said Sharp.

“Marla has done a fantastic job with the center and I want to continue what she’s done and build on the last nine years she’s been here,” said Smith.

Smith has experience in working with budgets, organizational and federal grants and community organizations through her years spent working for the city of Blue Rapids and at the county clerk’s office in Marshall County.

“I enjoy working with the public and I think there are going to be great similarities,” said Smith.

Sharp and Smith will be working together for the next several days, with Sharp’s last day being Sept. 30.

Smith said one of the greatest challenges facing HAS is COVID-19 and keeping the center functioning as a community resource for meals, foot care and, soon, Medicare Part D enrollment assistance.

“We want to be able to open safely and bring people back in as quickly as possible – not knowing what the future holds,” said Smith.

Sharp added HAS is considering a reopening date of Jan. 1, depending on the safety regulations and guidance issued.

Smith said it is not unusual for HAS to provide meals for nearly six dozen residents several days a month.

“Keeping the food program intact for the community is going to be a challenge, but I am excited about it,” she said.

While the doors to the center may be locked, Smith and Sharp said valuable services will still be provided by appointment. SHICK, which assists with Medicare Part D enrollment, is a service that has saved residents thousands of dollars each year through evaluating what plans would best serve each individual. Appointments are available beginning Oct. 15-Dec. 7.

Smith said keeping such services available keeps HAS engaged with and benefiting Hesstonians.

“HAS is still open. We have SHICK enrollment coming up, toenail care for seniors, an exercise class. We try to focus on health and services related to senior needs,” said Sharp.

Sharp said with this changing of the guard during uncertain times, she hopes residents will welcome Smith and embrace the change.

“Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is going to be totally different. I can share a little about what we’ve done over the years, but then again, she’s going to recreate them,” said Sharp.

Smith is a Kansas native whose husband is currently employed with Bradbury. She has two children in the school district and is very involved with extracurricular activities.