Although “very honored” to be selected as a Star Metroland Media 2021 Urban Hero Award winner in the health category, People’s Choice, Debbie Lee said it “was also a bit of a surprise.”
“But on the other hand, I work with a great bunch of people, they are amazing, they are dedicated, they work really well together, and they are really grateful for everything. And I also appreciate them, because they have had my back a few times, ”she said.
Lee is the Senior Health Program Coordinator for the Scarborough Center for Healthy Communities. And the large crowd of people she referred to, she said, were the participating seniors in the various programs she coordinates.
The feeling is mutual.
“She has worked tirelessly, beyond duty, putting all of her seniors’ needs ahead of her own,” remarked her nominee, Joyce Logan, who said she has participated in the programs for nearly a decade.
Lee has been at the center for nearly a quarter of a century, dating back to when it was known as West Hill Community Services.
She has been coordinating senior programs for 10 years, but had to turn around when the pandemic hit last year, she said.
Two of her weekly programs are still virtual – a health and wellness workshop on Tuesday and a guided mindfulness program on Wednesday – while her walking group, designed to help seniors’ mental health through exercise and immersion in nature, is now back in person.
In particular, the health and wellness workshop made a successful transition to online, she said.
She remembers when it was first offered a decade ago, it started with only a handful of seniors. When COVID-19 hit, she said, “we had up to 60 seniors a week.”
The online version increased those numbers even more, she explained, because seniors from a larger area could log in.
Studies the agency has done with program participants, she said, have found that if there has been at least one positive aspect to the pandemic, it is that many seniors are much, much more proficient with their computer.