Amherst senior center director departs for DA’s office

  • Mary Beth Ogulewicz FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/18/2021 9:31:03 AM

AMHERST — Amherst’s senior services director for just over two years, as well as a point person for the town’s efforts to address homelessness, is leaving for a position in the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Mary Beth Ogulewicz shared her pending departure in a recent letter sent to the Senior Center community.

“It was a difficult decision due to my deep affection for you,” she wrote. “It has been hard to say good-bye to the many wonderful people that make up our community and to properly give thanks for our shared labor that attempted to make lives better.”

Ogulewicz, who previously worked as a prosecutor for the Hampden County district attorney’s office, was appointed by Town Manager Paul Bockelman to oversee the Senior Center in July 2019, replacing Nancy Pagano, who had a 47-year tenure there and served as director for 15 years.

Her new job will be as chief of the Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit. Helen MacMellon, a program director and social worker at the Amherst Senior Center, will be the acting director as a search begins for a permanent replacement.

Ogulewicz praised her colleagues and volunteers at the Senior Center. “Our Senior Center team faithfully held space and supported seniors in some of the most trying times this past year,” she said.

Their work included outreach to ensure homebound senior citizens received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ogulewicz also notes her support for the Council on Aging’s commitment to having racial equity in programming and services.

“There is always more work ahead, but I am extremely proud of what we, the professional town staff, collectively accomplished on behalf of residents,” Ogulewicz said.

Community partners, such as the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, Amherst Business Improvement District and Family Outreach, which served Amherst’s elders and other families with the December Dinners program that extended to April, are also instrumental in the ongoing work at the Senior Center, Ogulewicz said.

During the pandemic, Ogulewicz added responsibilities related to homeless issues, leading the town’s Homelessness and Rehousing Working Group and being a liaison to Craig’s Doors, the agency that operates the seasonal overnight shelter.

Ogulewicz is the third department head to leave in recent months. Emma Dragon departed in July as the town’s health director, a position she was in for less than a year. The town also has a vacant director of Amherst Recreation position caused by the retirement of Barbara Bilz in May.

Department heads leaving after only a short time in their roles in recent years is not unusual. Two town clerks, Margaret Nartowicz and Shavena Martin, each served for a year or less, while Human Resources Director Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg was in her position for just over a year.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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