Kirmser takes the reins of senior group
At an age when most people would be stepping back and enjoying retirement, the president of Stay at Home in Wilton is revving up for a productive year with the organization that helps senior citizens stay in their homes as they age.
Sally Maraventano Kirmser took over the position late last year after serving for two years on the board of directors. Stay at Home members, prospective members and volunteers and the community may meet her and learn about the organization at an open house Tuesday, Jan. 22, from 3 to 5 in the senior center at Comstock Community Center, 180 School Road.
Also expected to attend is state Sen. Will Haskell (D-26), whom Kirmser invited to speak with seniors. Coffee, biscotti and Italian pastries will be served.
“I am tremendously enthused to take on the position of president,” Kirmser told The Bulletin, adding she wants to further Stay at Home’s mission “to give real service to seniors.”
Kirmser is perhaps best known in Wilton — where she and her husband, cardiologist Dr. Ralph Kirmser, have lived since 1978 — as the owner of the Italian cooking school Cucina Casalinga, which she started in 1981 and continues to run.
After turning 70 a few years ago, the couple cut back on their work schedules and looked for opportunities to volunteer. They learned of Stay at Home in Wilton at a volunteer fair at Wilton Library. After signing up, they soon found themselves serving on the board.
The couple knew the former president, Peter Dodds, also a physician, through Norwalk Hospital. When he stepped down after he and his wife moved to Massachusetts to be closer to their children, he suggested Sally Kirmser take over.
She has done so with great enthusiasm, setting a list of goals she’d like to achieve, including:
- Increasing membership.
- Recruiting more volunteers.
- Spreading the word about services the organization offers.
- Adding programs and social events.
Stay at Home in Wilton is marking its eighth anniversary this year with more than 100 members. The benefits of membership are available not only to those who continue to live at home, but to those in senior living situations as well.
The most popular service offered by the organization’s roster of volunteers is car rides.
“The big turning point is when people can no longer drive,” Kirmser said. Since its inception, the organization has offered more than 600 rides to seniors.
But volunteers offer many other types of help such as minor home repairs and technology support. Recently, Kirmser said, her husband helped other volunteers build a wheelchair ramp for a member. A friendly visitor program offers companionship to those who may be homebound.
Social events are very popular, from the annual anniversary party in the spring, summer barbecue, and Christmas party, to field trips, men’s breakfast meetings, and ladies’ lunches. Members Ellen and Jim Kapustka are organizing outings for walkers.
Last year, Stay at Home inaugurated a series of talks by medical specialists. Dr. Ralph Kirmser spoke on heart health followed by a presentation on strokes by Dr. Daryl Story. Dr. Andrew Parker has agreed to give a talk on hearing issues of concern to seniors on Tuesday, April 23, at 3, at the senior center. The talk is open to the general community.
There are also other programs of general interest. Jim Kapustka, who is a CPA and treasurer of Stay at Home in Wilton, will give a talk on Tax Breaks & Smart Strategies for Seniors on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 3. He will discuss the new tax law and how it affects seniors.
“My goal is to keep everybody moving and enjoying life and I would really like to see our membership increase,” Kirmser said. A believer in one-on-one interaction, Kirmser said she encourages members to reach out to those in the community they think might benefit from what the organization has to offer. “They can invite them to anything,” she said of the organization’s events, most of which are free.
Membership in Stay at Home is $360 per year for an individual and $480 per couple. Scholarships are available. The group receives no money from the town, although a number of local businesses have sponsored various events.
Information is available at stayathomeinwilton.org. Registration is requested for programs by calling Janet Johnson at 203-762-2600.