Alexandria Senior Center now led by Executive Director Shelli-Kae Foster

Since Feb. 1 the Alexandria Senior Center has been led by executive director Shellie-Kae Foster

Shelli-Kae Foster
Shelli-Kae Foster, executive director of the Alexandria Senior Center, stands in the dining room area of the center where seniors gather to play cards. Foster has been the executive director since Feb. 1, 2022.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA – Since Feb. 1, the Alexandria Senior Center has been under the leadership of newly-appointed executive director Shelli-Kae Foster, an Alexandria native.

“I'm really excited to be the executive director here at the Alexandria Senior Center,” Foster said. “It's where I've grown up (Alexandria) and have quite a history here. And so for me, to be able to work in my own community, serving my own community has been just a huge gift for me.”

Foster said she found out about the position opening in multiple ways.

“I heard about it on a job site, and also a board member did approach me and encouraged me to apply,” Foster said. “So I saw that as an opportunity to jump in and use my skills here in the nonprofit world. I've only been in the position for less than two and a half months. So I've had a really vertical learning curve. It's been wonderful that everyone here has been very welcoming. It just really feels like everyone wants me to succeed, and they're doing whatever they can to support me.”

Alexandria Senior Center building
The Alexandria Senior Center is located in the lower level of the Towne Square Apartments building at 414 Hawthorne Street in Alexandria.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press<br/>

Foster has enjoyed her time in this new role. She’s been really impressed with the senior center’s atmosphere and the positive reception she’s had from the members so far.


"I am impressed with the energy and expertise of the volunteers that make this place a great place to be,” Foster said. “The members and the board are very supportive. They helped with my training and just asked, ‘How can we help? Don't be afraid to ask questions; you're in charge of the house, but we want to help you.’ I've felt from the programs to the members, to the board, everybody's been super supportive. I look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

Foster has spent plenty of years in the nonprofit world in the area and she has a passion in that realm.

But growing up, being in the nonprofit world was not at the front of her mind.

“I don't even know what a nonprofit was growing up,” Foster said. “But I have lived in the nonprofit industry now for over 20 years. I managed a statewide program in the last 10 years. That was as a nonprofit, as well. So I gained a lot of experience with grant writing, managing staff, volunteers and doing events.”

Foster said that this experience with nonprofits has helped her transition into her current role at the senior center.

One of the main goals that Foster and the senior center have is to gain more members going forward.

Yoga at senior center
Nicole Warner, left, leads a yoga class at the Alexandria Senior Center on Wednesday, April 13.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

“I've been going out and networking like going to Wake Up Alexandria or going to Communities in Action and trying to network with other nonprofits,” Foster said. “The community as a whole, 44 percent of the population in Alexandria, is considered a senior because anybody over 50 is considered a senior. So that's a huge portion of our population. And so we have a big job to do to serve that population.”

The senior center was deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some events and activities had to be taken away because of it.


But now, some of those programs appear to be coming back.

“I'm really hoping to build back those programs that were lost and then to offer some new and innovative programs as well,” Foster said. “We're looking at the future and what's next for the senior center. And I think the programming we're doing right now is really meeting the needs of a certain group of seniors. We have cards, different games and we host meetings for really important groups in the community.”

Some of the things that the senior center is looking to add are cooking classes in the fall, bus trips and things of that nature.

Foster said the senior center is trying to efficiently use the space it has.

“I think one thing is we're kind of bursting at the seams here with the room that we're at,” Foster said. “It's a 9,000-square-foot building. But we haven't had each of our rooms sectioned off into quarters. So we didn't have bingo in one quadrant; we could have Bunco in another quadrant, Mexican train (dominoes) in another quadrant, and make a meeting going on. So yeah, we're really using our space well, but I think we could use more expanded space and maybe a different space that could accommodate more exercise and cooking classes.”

Seniors playing pool
A group of guys play their daily game of pool at the Alexandria Senior Center on Wednesday, April 13.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

Foster said they are looking at solutions for parking as well.

Overall, Foster has enjoyed her time so far in her role and is looking forward to working with members of the senior center who love the fact that she is from the community.

“One thing that's been really heartwarming for me is that people from the community have known my family (maiden name Sonstegard), and so many people have come up and shared stories about my dad, Buzz, or my mother, Terry, or where my brothers or my sister, or my kids are,” Foster said.


Previously, Foster has worked in Kandiyohi County so hearing those stories helps her have a stronger connection with the senior center members.

“To share those stories of each other's families and that connection has been really warming, heartwarming and rejuvenating,” Foster said.

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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