Director has long journey to new post

October 08, 2000

Director has long journey to new post

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Cinnamon HuieMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It may be a long trip from Germany to here and from being a nuclear weapons officer to director of a senior services center, but Cinnamon Huie has made the journey.

The former Army captain just began her duties as executive director of Berkeley Senior Services, inheriting a new facility rehabilitated in the past two years and the desire to get more people inside the doors and into the programs at the former High Street school facility.

"My heart's in this," said Huie of the job she's now held for four weeks. "I just want to expand out senior base. I want to let people know we are here and what we can do for them."


"We were looking for organization and leadership when we hired her," said Bob Sanders, president of the board of Berkeley Senior Services. "We interviewed four or five people. She had what we were looking for."

Huie, is a self-described "Army brat" who grew up mainly in rural Alabama, where not every house on her dirt road had indoor plumbing, and at least one had a still in the woods.

She earned a bachelor's degree in theater, but decided to join the Army.

"They were looking for anybody that could breathe," she said. Besides, she added, "it was sort of like the family business."

She went in as a second lieutenant and helped oversee small nuclear weapons - not the kind that would blow up cities, but could damage a couple of city blocks.

"We trained endlessly for war," she said. She started in Colorado and later went to Germany, where she was in charge of handling conventional weapons. She married and had a child. When her then-husband got a job in Washington D.C. in 1991, they moved to Martinsburg because it was on the commuter line to the Capitol.

She'd acquired a master's degree in counseling psychology while in the Army and went to work in the social service field. She obtained a master's degree in business administration in 1998 and when the senior center job came open, it seemed a perfect fit, she said. She oversees a budget of about $1 million a year.

A retired men's chorus practiced last week in a spacious room while a group of women played cards. The facility boasts a large wellness room that looks like a big dance floor, a sizable kitchen and a room with 10 new Dell computers for seniors donated by Microsoft with the idea of helping seniors acquire computer skills.

A day-care program for seniors with Alzheimer's disease and other mental disabilities is run on site and a transportation service also is operated from there. The center hosts about 250-300 people a week, many of them regulars.

"I don't think there's been very much consistent publicity for what we have," she said. "And we are a very populous and prosperous part of the state. Here, there's all kinds of things to do."

"In rural areas, the senior center is their only point of entry," to the community ,said state House Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley.

"People have to know about it," Sanders said "When you say senior center, everybody has their own vision of what that means. A lot of people think it's a place where you just sit around and talk and don't do anything else."

Those who want to use the center will decide how to use it, Huie said.

"We talk about programs here all the time," she said. "But I don't think that's up to me. I don't think that's up to the staff. It's for the seniors. It's up to them to tell us what they want."

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