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MENDOTA — When Mendota Area Senior Services went looking for a new director, the opening provided a homecoming for Mendota native Letty Lemus. Lemus, born and raised in Mendota, studied at DePaul University before working for nonprofit agencies in the Evanston area. Then, she became a mother to 5-month-old Sofia. “Being from Mendota, I just couldn’t see raising my baby anywhere else,” she said. “I’ve known about MASS for years and it’s got a really good reputation.” Lemus said she enjoys working with people in the community. The opening gave her an opportunity to continue helping her neighbors but in her hometown. Carol Kern, long-time director, formally retired Jan. 16, just a few weeks after Lemus started. “She did a great job; she was a strong foundation,” Lemus said. Stepping into those shoes has been challenging, but Kern has been quick to answer any questions. Lemus also credits the staff with helping her learn the ropes as she settles in to the new position. “Carol always said, ‘No two days are ever the same,’” Lemus said. The Mendota position has some differences from her previous roles at suburban Chicago nonprofits. She said those organizations are large enough that each person has a narrowly-defined job every day. In Mendota, she answers phones, dispatches drivers, checks schedules, takes messages and looks over fundraising efforts. The next fundraiser for MASS is one that the staff has always supported in the past. But with Lemus at the helm, she has her sights set on winning the fundraiser and the ultimate prize: Kissing the skunk Feb. 21 at Heritage Health in Mendota. The annual fundraiser has become a highly-competitive sport in Mendota with businesses and organizations doing their best to out-raise each other with money raised donated to MASS. “Yeah, it’s kissing a skunk, but think about where the money’s going,” she said. “It’s fun and it’s all for a good cause.” Her goal is to raise enough money to make it into the top three this year and hopefully win the prize. Lemus said she asks everyone she knows if they can spare a dollar or two for the fundraiser to boost her chances for the final smooch. “It’ makes me happy to hear all the cashiers asking to donate to MASS,” she said about shopping in Mendota. “It’s really good, but they’re competitors, too.” Along with fundraising, Lemus said they have a website, www.mendotaareaseniorservices.org that will publish soon. The website will include a calendar of events, listings of special events and other items of interest to seniors and their caregivers. Lemus also started a Facebook page under Mendota-Area-Senior-Services. She also plans to begin translating brochures, calendars and other information into Spanish to reach out to the aging Hispanic population. MASS serves Mendota and the townships of Adams, Earl, Freedom, Meriden, Mission, Northville, Ophir, Serena and Troy Grove. They also provide transportation services to those age 60 and above. Free tax preparation and assistance with Medicare enrollment soon will be available. For more information, call MASS at (815) 539-9673.
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