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Grimes finds purpose by helping others at the Monongahela Senior Center

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jim Ference
Monongahela Senior Center Director Alice Grimes gives Mona Antonelli a hug, at the Monongahela Senior Center.

As senior center specialist at the Monongahela Senior Center, Alice Grimes encourages the patrons to keep active.

The Monongahela native tries to heed her own advice, thriving by making a difference in other people's lives.

Having started at the senior center 10 years ago, Grimes is used to tackling many roles - from serving as program coordinator who oversees the kitchen, to greeting people when they come into the center.

“One of the biggest factors of our job is to be bright and happy when the people come to the center,” Grimes said.

She said greeting newcomers to the center is a sign of the changing demographics of the region. The senior center patrons are not just those in their 70's and 80's. Those 55 and over are also part of the changing age and face of the center as the baby boomers – especially those born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania and the Mon Valley – come of senior age.

“I grew up in Monongahela and know a lot of the seniors who come in,” Grimes said. “It gives me a bit of an advantage, but it wears a little on my emotions. A lot of people who come here I grew up with their kids and it brings back a lot of memories.”

A 1979 Ringgold graduate, Grimes attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania before transferring to California University of Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1984 from Cal U.

After graduation, Grimes worked in office administration at A&L Construction in Rostraver Township, Centimark in Canonsburg, and Songer Steel Services Inc., in Washington.

In 2003, she learned of the opportunity at the senior center.

“I was very interested in the position because I wanted to help people in my community,” Grimes said. “And I felt I have a lot of versatile skills.”

Grimes likes having the opportunity to do something good every day.

“It's positive and fun all at the same time,” Grimes said. “When you get up in the morning, whether you make a million dollars or not doesn't matter. The point is do you have a purpose? I feel like I have a purpose.”

Grimes said she, too, benefits from the interaction with seniors.

“We teach seniors to just keep busy, keep active,” Grimes said. “Burnout comes from boredom, inactivity. I teach them don't sit still, get up and do something. And it keeps me active too.”

Grimes met her husband online. They will mark their fourth anniversary this summer. They live in Jefferson Hills.

She has two children from a previous marriage. Fawn, 18, will graduate from Thomas Jefferson High School this year. Her son, Jerrod, is 15.

Grimes' busy schedule includes keeping her children involved in activities. But she hopes to find time soon for her artwork that she enjoyed earlier in life. She is an accomplished drawer and painter and her artwork features profiles, usually of famous people.

“I don't have a lot of time for me, but it's something I look forward to doing,” Grimes said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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