Corbin H. Crable
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She’s only been on the job for a week, but Gardner Multi-Service Center Director Joanne Haworth can already tell that Gardner residents have big hearts.
“The folks who come in and (use the center’s resources) also help out the center when they can,” said Haworth, who took over as the center’s director on Aug. 9. “I can see that the community really supports this center.”
Haworth took the reins of the multi-service center from its previous director, Linda Rogers, who was hired as the director of the Spring Hill Multi-Service Center last month. Rogers was hired to replace outgoing director Stevie Morris, who retired at the end of July.
The center assists local residents in a multitude of ways, operating a food pantry for those in need, helping citizens pay their utility bills when stifling heat or bitter cold breeze through the area, and assisting jobseekers in finding and applying for open positions around town.
Haworth has plenty of experience in lending a helping hand to others. She began her new job last week after working for 10 years as a case manager for Johnson County Mental Health.
“I have a vast knowledge of community resources,” Haworth said. “I’ve done a lot of counseling and listening and being able to empathize with folks who are in tough situations. I’ve worked with folks from all different income levels and stages of life, and I think the social work background I have is going to be an asset out here.”
Haworth said that as the multi-service center’s new director, she is looking forward to continuing to help those in Gardner who need it most. She said that in order to do so, she will seek help from the organizations that have established a firm relationship with the center.
“I would like to see us continue to stay connected to churches and educational institutions throughout the community,” she said. “I’d like to see us continue to maintain strong relationships and continue to educate the public about the need to support one another.
And that need, Haworth noted, is great, especially when taking the current economic climate into consideration.
“There is such a need out there – people have lost their jobs, and things are tight,” Haworth said. “People need basic services – help with utilities, food and prescriptions – just to hold their family together and make it.”
Haworth said that in the short time she’s been at the helm of the multi-service center, the greatest need she’s seen filled is in people who need assistance paying their utilities.
But she’s happy to help those folks help themselves, and said she continues to be amazed at the resiliency of people in tough situations, whether they’re related to the economy or not.
“I have a belief in people, that they can accomplish great things,” Haworth said. “Sometimes it takes the right support to get them started. That’s my belief in people.”