Longtime Council on Aging director glad to be back

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2004


Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – In March of this year, Margaret Powe took a medical leave from her position as executive director of the St. Charles Council on Aging, Inc. Due to injuries suffered from an automobile accident, she was unable to return to work for five months.

While she was recuperating, there was no doubt in her mind that the office procedures and work load she had left behind would continue to run smoothly.

There had been some reorganization within the COA at the beginning of this year, and Powe attributes the training at that time to the successful continuation of services in her absence.

Powe has worked with the St. Charles Council on Aging for 20 years and always felt that delegation was important in running a smooth operation. She added that she realizes that any organization is not a one-person deal.

“I’ve always been able to delegate,” she said. “I see how especially important this is now than I ever thought before.”

This art of delegation, paired with employee teamwork, came into play big time with the situation of her empty desk. “It was a win-win situation, with both sides being comfortable,” she said.

When Powe was interviewed for this article, she was asked what changes she found when she returned to her job on Sept. 10.

“No change, but that’s a good thing,” she said. “We have such a great group of employees. I was never concerned that there would be unfinished work.”

When Powe left the office that Friday in March, she didn’t realize that she wouldn’t be coming back after the weekend was over. “I was in Intensive Care for four weeks,” she said. “I was not able to communicate with anyone.”

Her husband Jimmy was also involved in the automobile accident, but his injuries were not as severe as his wife’s. Although most of her injuries were internal, she had to learn to walk again and also to use other muscles that had been dormant while she was in the hospital.

Determined to persevere, Powe worked with physical therapists to help regain use of all her muscle groups.

In addition to her husband, her daughters Robin and Lindsay and two grandchildren were part of her immediate support system.

“It was hard not to think of work,” she said. “Especially when it is such a big part of your life.”

Powe has always recognized the importance of the services and programs that the Council on Aging provides, and is even more keenly aware now that she is back on the job. “I am so happy to be able to do the things that are so meaningful,” she said.

“When she did return to the job in September, there were still Easter decorations on her desk. “It felt like a time warp,” she said. “”I felt like I had been gone a long, long, time.”

Before Powe returned to work, many people were asking her if she was going to retire. This wasn’t an option, according to the determined executive director.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that I was going to come back,” she said with a smile. “”I still have things to do and projects to complete.”

Although Powe hasn’t been able to attend many large functions yet, she is definitely looking toward the future – for both herself and the Council on Aging. She noted that the needs of the senior citizens are changing, and the agency will change to accommodate those needs.

Comments she has heard from friends, acquaintances and others in community are that their prayers were answered. She was very touched by the outpouring of love and support. “I don’t know if I would be here today without the prayers and faith of so many people,” she humbly said.

Visitors, flowers, cards and other acts of caring were gratefully accepted, and her home church went even one step further. The First Baptist Church in Laplace helped to feed out-of-town visitors.

In a recent memo to employees, Powe wrote the thoughts that were deep in her heart.

She acknowledged Elizabeth Thomas for filling in during her absence and also to everyone else involved in the St. Charles Council on Aging agency.

She also singled out the employees for stepping up and accepting the additional responsibilities that were required.

“Words of appreciation seem inadequate,” she said in the memo. “Teamwork takes on a new meaning under such circumstances.”

Powe’s road to full recovery hasn’t reached it’s final destination yet. She currently works part-time, but hopes to be at the helm fulltime by the beginning of 2005.

The biggest challenge she now faces is pacing herself. “I am working on that, a day at a time,” she said. “And I want to thank everyone for everything, The love and care from the public was so humbling.”