Nutrition manager hired for Hammond, Roberts
When she gets a chance, Dawn Palazzo likes to sit down and chat with the seniors enjoying their meals through the Hammond and Roberts senior nutrition programs.
"I really enjoy when I can sit down at lunch time when I have the chance," Palazzo said, "to sit down and get to know the folks."
She is the new senior center nutrition program manager for Hammond and Roberts.
"Seniors are, I feel, a very important part of our population," Palazzo said. "They have a lot to teach us. I think it's our obligation to take care of them and do what we can to make their lives better."
Palazzo has been working with senior citizens in the field of recreation since 1996. She is now working on her bachelor's degree, a double-major in therapeutic recreation and psychology from Mercy College in New York. She said she chose therapeutic recreation because the degree offered versatility in job options.
"If you wanted to work with school age kids you could be employed within a city's parks and recreation department," Palazzo said. "If you wanted to work with the developmentally disabled, you could be employed with an organization such as St. Croix Industries in New Richmond."
Palazzo said recreation therapists can also work in children's hospitals and mental health care facilities, but they are most commonly employed in long-term care for seniors. She said she chose to work with senior citizens because she enjoys spending time with that portion of the population.
"I can relate very well to them since I spent a lot of time around them during my youth," Palazzo said. She was raised in a neighborhood with few children and her grandfather lived with her and her family until Palazzo was 10.
Palazzo and her husband are from Mahopac, a rural town in upstate New York. The Palazzos moved to Woodbury, Minn., before moving to New Richmond in 2001.
"I truly enjoy the rural splendor of our neighborhood," Palazzo said. "I love this area, it reminds me of my rural upstate hometown in New York."
Palazzo had been working full-time as an activities coordinator for a senior housing complex in a northern St. Paul suburb. In September of 2011, Palazzo left that job, due to rising gas prices and began volunteering at The Deerfield in New Richmond. In March, Palazzo became a substitute nutrition site manager for the New Richmond senior nutrition center and others around the county, until she became the full-time nutrition site manager for the Hammond and Roberts senior nutrition sites.
Palazzo is in Roberts on Mondays and Wednesdays and at the Hammond site on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She sets up the meals for the seniors and cleans up afterwards and does paperwork in between. But her favorite part of the job, she said, is getting to know the seniors.
She said she also enjoys seeing the seniors socializing with each other.
"They enjoy getting together and chatting with each other," Palazzo said. "That's what's really enjoyable to see. They need that social stimulation."
Palazzo said she would like to bring "life-long learning" educational programming to the Hammond/Roberts seniors.
"I firmly believe that people should never stop learning, regardless of age," Palazzo said. "I would like to offer intellectually stimulating fun programs on different topics that interest our folks."
The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of St. Croix County oversees the nutrition sites in St. Croix County and offers many other programs which provide assistance with many of the struggles seniors can face living in their own homes. Palazzo said this could be financial assistance in home upkeep or something like assistance with showering or similar challenges seniors face.
"Much help is available at the county level when needs should arise," Palazzo said. She said the nutrition program is one important service the St. Croix County ADRC offers for seniors.
"The nutrition program is sort of an intervention program that sees that they get at least one good, healthy, hot meal a day," Palazzo said, "and that's very important for some of them, especially because some don't cook anymore or can't get groceries."