JOYFUL KEYS LIVING: THE DESIRE FOR A TECHNOLOGY CLASS AMONG THE SENIOR POPULATION PUT BETSY BAST INTO ACTION
Betsy Baste is a tenacious, results-oriented community organizer with a warm smile, laughing eyes and an engaging personality – the perfect combination for a program director at Just Older Youth Inc.
Baste’s career as a community organizer began in Rabun County, Georgia in 1995 as a volunteer in the concerned citizens’ movement to create a drop-in center for teens and later as a program director for the after-school program established as a nonprofit in Macon County. , North Carolina. For the next 15 years, Baste led the center while simultaneously earning a bachelor’s degree in youth development and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia University.
In 2011, Baste, her husband Scott, her daughter Larisa, and her aging parents Betty and Jim Kelly moved to Islamorada in hopes of fulfilling a longtime dream of opening a dive shop. Finding the dive shop market saturated here in the Keys, they opened Paddle the Florida Keys and she went to work as a dive master at Pennekamp State Park. For the next six years, she divided her time between Paddle, Pennekamp and caring for her parents. It was during these years that it became apparent to Baste that there was no vibrant program to meet the needs of older people in the area; she told herself that when her parents were no longer with her, she would investigate.
In 2017, after her parents died, Baste volunteered at the Monroe County Senior Center in Islamorada. While decorating for a St. Patrick’s Day party, she started talking with senior volunteers at the center, who said they would appreciate a tech class. Baste said, “I can do it.” Over the next few weeks, she rearranged existing computer stations and began weekly sessions.
She also got involved in conversations with other volunteers about the need to engage in programs for seniors. The group determined that further investigation was needed and held monthly community meetings. Baste’s experience with the grassroots organization helped shape the direction of the group. From these meetings, a board of directors was formed with Baste as president. Over the next few months, Baste and the Just Older Youth Inc. Board of Directors created and piloted the JOY Center.
In 2018, Baste stepped down as chairman of the board and became program director for the nonprofit. She thinks the Upper Keys will benefit from a community center because of the “sandwich dilemma.” In other words, many workers in the Upper Keys worry about the well-being of their children and elderly parents while they are on the job. A community center would be a safe place for their parents and teenagers, relieving their anxiety, allowing them to be happier and more productive at work.
When you meet Baste, ask him about scat and kite flying in North Carolina, or about the participants and the many volunteers at the JOY Center. The stories will warm your heart and demonstrate how a vibrant community center could benefit the Upper Keys.
The JOY Center offers dynamic programs and lifelong learning experiences for people over 50 every Wednesday, both virtual and onsite. This bi-weekly column will feature the many dedicated individuals working to achieve this goal. For more information, contact [email protected]