BEEVILLE — It will be a sadder Christmas this year for the senior citizens who Karen Hadden considers her second family.
She is retiring Dec. 14 after 35 years with the Bee Community Action Agency, a governmental association which provides programs and services helping low-income, elderly and disabled people in Bee County and surrounding area.
“It’s just time,” she says.
Hadden, who is 62, joined the agency on Dec. 7, 1977.
“It was thanks to the affirmative action program,” she remembers. “The Rev. J.D. White of the Bethlehem Baptist Church called the BCAA and told them, ‘I don’t care what she does as long as she’s on the payroll Monday morning.’”
The then 27-year-old, an honor graduate from Long Beach Polytechnic, started as a janitor.
“I was making $2.13 an hour,” Hadden says, shaking her head, “hard to believe.”
During her tenure, the BCAA’s offices moved seven times and enjoyed four directors.
For her first four months, she was part of a team of women surveying the needs of seniors in Beeville, Skidmore, Tynan, Papalote, George West, Three Rivers, Pettus and Refugio.
That led to her becoming part of the BCAA’s Senior Citizens’ Program in 1978. By 1990, she was the director.
“They told me that, because I was so young, I would not be able to connect with them,” Hadden chuckles. “Well, I’ve buried some of them. I love senior citizens; I love what they stand for.”
Many of those seniors may attend Hadden’s retirement party at the Bee County Expo Center at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13. “Anyone I’ve helped through the years is invited,” she says.
Next month, Hadden is moving to Austin to live with her daughter, Sharee Coleman.
“Sharee told me,” Hadden recalls, ‘Mom, you have taken care of so many people — now it’s time for me to take care of you.’”
In her last days at BCAA, she is training her replacement, Victor Ortiz. “He’s going to be great,” Hadden says, “because he has that same compassion for the elderly.”
If BCAA thinks Hadden’s association with the agency ends on Dec. 14, it’s in for a surprise.
Armed with a new laptop, she plans to write.
“The first book is going to be the Negro history of Beeville,” she says. “I’ve spent months in the library looking at microfiche copies of the Bee-Picayune. There’s so much history there that people have forgotten. I’d love to live in the library.”
And the next?
“I’m going to write my memoirs of my time with the BCAA. “I have binders and binders of notes I’ve taken over the last 35 years.”
While her home soon will be in Austin, Hadden says she leaves her heart behind. “Beeville always will be my home.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.