Center. A 1979 graduate of Monett High School, Balmas has started at the beginning of a new fiscal year and has found herself very busy in the first weeks on the job.
Balmas is the daughter of Gale and Rose Huffmaster and the late Karan Huffmaster. She began working with senior citizens as an employee for the Barry-Lawrence Association for Retarded Citizens at the group home in Pierce City, which at the time has mostly seniors and dual-diagnosed clients.
For the past eight years Balmas has worked in food service for the Monett R-1 School District. She kept her position after the school district switched to having Opaa run the food service last spring. The job at the senior center inrigued her with the retirement of director Billie Bounous, and she applied. Balmas started work on June 21.
"I really like working with seniors," Balmas said. "They're a lot of fun. I'm in here helping a lot of different people. I'm wearing several hats. I don't think I've found them all yet."
Balmas has faced several challenges in her first weeks on the job. The biggest has been maintaining the number of volunteers to deliver hot meals to homebound seniors A staffing vacancy in the kitchen prompted her to hire one of her co-workers from the school district
"There's a lot of paperwork to keep the kitchen going," Balmas said. "I'm just learning how to stay above that. The most rewarding part of the job is knowing we are serving seniors who have a lot of need. It's nice to work in a place where what we do matters."
This week Balmas has her first meeting with the senior center's board of directors. She plans to have her first meeting later in the month with the Barry County Tax Board for Senior Services, which helps fund the center through a county-wide sales tax.
"I'd love for more folks to come in and eat lunch," Balmas said. "Lunch is $3.50 for those over 60 and $6 for persons under 60. Wednesdays seem to be our big day, when oven-fried chicken is served."
The center continues to be a busy place. A new exercise class is starting on Tuesdays and Fridays. There are daily bingo games and usually a card game going in the afternoon. Balmas said she plans to keep developing programs to meet the needs and interests of the senior population.
"The main thing is knowing we're very much a team here," Balmas said. "I really like it here. I know those in positions here tend to become a fixture. That's fine with me."
Balmas is married to Kevin Balmas and they have three children, Christen, Tessa and Aaron.
For more information about the Monett Senior Center, call Balmas at 235-3285.