Mayfield Village Human Services Director Eunice Kalina will have completed almost 25 years when she retires on Friday. That's a long time to remain at a job that wasn't something she initially set out to do.
A former teacher of English and French in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights school system, Kalina left that job to become a stay-at-home mom. Then in the mid-1980s her children had graduated and she found herself wondering what was next.
"I was going through a divorce and didn't know what to do," she said. "I applied to the counseling and human services program at John-Carroll University."
At first she worried about whether she could handle being a student after so many years away from studying.
"I was really frightened by that aspect of it. 'I told them, 'My transcripts might be a little yellow,'" Kalina said. "It was so stimulating that I absolutely loved it. I started out with a statistics class and I thought that at least I might flunk out before spending too much money. That was one of two B's I got – the rest were all A's."
As she was in school getting her master's degree, she found out about a new human services job being created in Mayfield Village and applied, only to see the position go to a woman who had been working as a volunteer.
"A year later they called to see if I was still interested," she said. "I started part-time, 15 hours a week – I was still in school."
However, even after getting her master's degree in 1989, she didn't consider leaving.
"I never even looked for another job," she said. "I loved it."
Although she went to school intending to land a job that involved more counseling, Kalina said she enjoyed providing programs for senior citizens, in addition to providing counseling. Kalina said the relationships she's developed over the years were the best part of her job.
"People I've met along the way have been unbelievable," she said. "It's just been a treat. That's what I will miss."
She recalled a woman who regularly attended programs and became one of her best friends.
"I went to see her in hospice. She said to me, 'You are the best friend I have.' She was like a big sister to me. There have been a number of those people," Kalina said.
The family of one man who had been playing cards since the group started about 30 years ago gave her an indication of just how important the programs and activities are to seniors.
"His grandson mentioned that grandpa really loved to play cards. He told me, 'When we cleaned out his house we found all these bars of soap," Kalina said. The man saved the bars, which had been prizes for winning card games.
While the twice a week card games are the biggest draw, Kalina also kept seniors busy with speakers on topics such as memory and Social Security, exercise programs, watercolor classes and one-day trips.
"I looked for things that not everybody else did," she said about the trips she planned. "I'm not against going to a casino, but there are plenty of those trips. I looked for things that were entertaining, cultural and educational. One year we went to Ameriflora in Columbus. It was a huge exposition of floral things and we had an amazing response."
She also did the planning herself, rather than just book a trip with a bus company, in order to keep costs down.
"I also don't like to repeat trips. We used to go to the Ohio Light Opera, but that got so expensive," Kalina said.
Kalina said the toughest part about retiring is that she'll miss the people who regularly come to senior programs. But she said it's time to move on.
"To everything there is a season," she said. "I thought about it long and hard before I made a decision."