O’Neill’s director leaving

During bridge club Tuesday afternoon at the O’Neill Center, birthday cake and snacks were available to celebrate seven birthdays, including a 95th birthday.

At the same time, a longtime member of the O’Neill family already had announced to the staff an important milestone of her own.

The O’Neill’s executive director, Terry Zdrale, who has worked for the center since its incorporation as a nonprofit in 1986, will work her last day July 1. She has served as executive director since 1992.

Zdrale said she and her husband, already retired three years, plan to move to Denver, Colo., to be closer to their daughter.

Until a permanent successor is named, Connie Huntsman, the center’s operations director, has been named interim director. She declined to say whether she would be a candidate for the permanent position.

“I have worked with Terry for a long time,” Huntsman said. “I am comfortable with the organization. We are in a strong position, and I look forward to the challenge at hand.”

Joanie Washburn, president of the O’Neill board of directors, could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the search for Zdrale’s successor.

Among the seniors playing contract bridge Tuesday was Katy Smithberger, 86, of Marietta.

“I certainly enjoy coming here and playing bridge,” Smithberger said. “It’s a combination of men and women who are nice people.”

Volunteerism and community support have helped the O’Neill Center stretch the number of people it can help in its variety of services, including adult day care, living assistance, prescription assistance, transportation and other programs at the center and around the county, Zdrale said.

About 80 volunteers help all facets of the O’Neill’s operation, Zdrale said. Even the Marietta College football team arrives each week in the fall to rake leaves.

“Volunteerism is the driving force behind our growth,” Zdrale said.

Zdrale said although she is proud of how far the center has come, it needs to move to another location because of the growing numbers of people older than age 60 projected for the county and because parking always has been a problem.

According to the Area Agency on Aging Region 8, the population of Washington County age 60 and older is at 24.2 percent and is expected to be at 37.7 percent by 2050.

It all comes down to funding.

“Whenever we have to turn someone away because of a lack of funding, it kills me,” Zdrale said. “To secure a (stable) source of funding has always been a goal.”

She points to the community support for the Senior Service Levy, the national accreditation, the adult day care center and the expansion of the Belpre Senior Center as projects of which she was proud to have been a part.

“Terry has put a lot of love into this place,” said Cindy Mayes, 43, who has been the O’Neill receptionist since January. “She puts a personal touch on everything. She’ll stop and talk to the seniors to make sure they have what they need. She’ll do the same with the employees.”