Terri Whitmire had dealt with her own mother’s heart attack and decline. Then she dealt with her father’s stroke and his deterioration.

She knew the physical and emotional trials of caring for an aging loved one.

So when a position was advertised to be the first director a new Adult Day Care program at Hutchins Street Square, she pounced on it. She got the job.

That was 25 years ago. Since then, Whitmire has led aging adults in a thousand songs, served countless snacks, comforted hundreds of families.

On Friday, it was time to celebrate, as the Adult Day Care, operated by Lodi Health in partnership with the city of Lodi, marked its 25th anniversary. There were platters of cookies, balloons,and a big sign reading: “Thank you Terri for Your Care and Compassion.”

The day care center is nothing if not a place of compassion. Aging and frail adults are served snacks and lunches — from chicken enchiladas to pot pies and Salisbury steaks. They are provided exercise and intellectual stimulation.

Perhaps most important, they are treated to smiles and hugs.

Patients can stay at the center for a few hours or all day. The fees are roughly $40 a day, but no one is turned away. Some clients are in their 60s or even 50s; most are in their 80s or 90s.

For the men and women who spend time at the center, it is a haven.

Babe Jones’ husband, Jerry, came to the center after a diagnosis of dementia at age 62. He built friendships at the center and enjoyed the activities.

“It made a real difference in his quality of life and he actually looked forward to coming here,” she said. “There was music for him here, singing, good food. Happiness.”

Her husband spent time at the center for nearly four years, until he had to be transferred into a nursing home, where he continues to reside.

For Babe Jones herself, as with most care providers, the center provided hours of much-appreciated respite.

Care providers whose love ones come to the center can catch their breath, be more effective and continue on with the often-grueling challenges of taking care of someone, Whitmire said. On most days, 20 to 25 clients are served at the program, tucked into a wing at Hutchins Street Square, the former Lodi High School campus that is now a community center.

Increasingly, she said, programs like hers are models for serving a rapidly aging population. They allow older adults to remain in their homes longer and enjoy greater quality of life.

“Nursing homes can run $10,000 a month. Fees here are about $800 per month. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the value of these programs,” she said.

So with lots of heart, and plenty of elbow grease, Whitmire has built a place of compassion and care over 25 years.

And she has no plans to stop.

Among those celebrating the center’s birthday Friday was Whitmire’s husband, Bob Whitmire, a retired CHP officer.

He’s asked his wife repeatedly if she is ready to join him in retirement.

“She always says ‘no,’” he said.

“She still loves what she is doing. Making a difference.”

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