Sharon Gesek is most proud of the help she can provide older residents and caregivers across St. Johns County as the program director of the county’s Council on Aging. She lives in Nocatee after moving from Connecticut in 2019 and she enjoys spending time with her grandsons.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I grew up in small town Connecticut. I received my bachelor’s degree in social work, and my first job out of college was as a case worker in my hometown, where I saw my community through a completely different lens.
I followed this with several years in the mental health field working in both inpatient and outpatient clinical settings.
After I started my graduate coursework in recreational and leisure studies, one of my professors surprisingly inspired me to work with the aging population. That is when my career path took a somewhat dramatic turn, and I began working in the elderly service field in several municipalities in Connecticut.
My last position in Connecticut was as the program director for the Southwestern CT Area Agency on Aging, which is very much like ElderSource in Northeast Florida.
I oversaw the Older Americans Act programs, information and referral and the SHIP State Health Insurance Assistance Program (in Florida, it is called SHINE.)
How long have you been with the Council on Aging and how did you get involved?
I started working at the St. Johns County Council on Aging as the program director in May of 2019 shortly after deciding to move to Florida to be close to my son and daughter-in-law, who were expecting their first child that year.
I saw an opening online at the COA in St Augustine, applied and interviewed virtually.
The COA is the embodiment of a true nonprofit agency; everyone’s focus is on providing worthwhile services and programs to as many seniors living in St Johns County.
What are the most rewarding parts of the job?
There are some incredibly rewarding aspects when working at the COA. For me, being able to offer services and resources to seniors and caregivers who thought no one cared or understood their situation is so gratifying.
Coming out of COVID shutdowns and now hearing the laughter and seeing the smiling faces at our COA senior centers, or the genuine appreciation when you deliver a simple meal and newspaper to a homebound senior, is priceless.
Witnessing the instant relief on a caregiver’s face when you simply listen to their journey and then share the various resources available to them through COA and our sister agencies is so rewarding.
Are you one that lays out goals? If so, what are some of your goals for the future?
Sometime in the near future, I would like to work with Dementia Friends USA to bring a chapter to Northeast Florida.
My more far-reaching dream would be to offer congregate breakfast or dinner via a food truck in some of the more rural communities like Hastings and Elkton, with the intention to reach folks who may not be familiar with the COA or may be unable to travel to senior center meal sites.
What are some of the challenges that you face with the job?
Funding is always a challenge since the COA relies predominantly on federal, state and county funding. The administration and boards for St Johns County have been a constant, supportive and responsive partner to the initiatives of the COA on so many levels throughout our 49-year history.
Another challenge is reaching the county’s most vulnerable seniors and caregivers who may not know of our agency or the variety of services and resources we offer.
What do you enjoy most about living in the Northeast Florida area?
Being involved with my grandsons on a regular basis is the best. Climate for sure, except August – that’s no fun.
I love to hear stories from native Floridians, since they are a rare breed in Nocatee. My neighborhood is so wonderful; the neighbors really look out for one another, so I feel like I am right back to my small town roots.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Spend time with the family and my adorable grandsons! Since two of the three years I’ve been in Florida have been during COVID, I’m looking forward to exploring a bit more now. I plan to volunteer with an animal shelter and hope to take advantage of the amazing offerings in Nocatee and surrounding areas.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here