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Article Published August 4, 2021

Sharon Slaton: Keeping Things—and People—Together at ECSI

By Eric O’Connell/

This is how it started: Sharon Slaton’s mother-in-law was on the board of the Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. (ECSI) and mentioned that the council could use some part-time help if Sharon was free.

“I was just supposed to come in for a few weeks until they found someone new,” Sharon says.

That was in 2002, and 19 years later, Sharon is still at ECSI, now serving as the director of operations.

ECSI is a nonprofit based in Old Saybrook that seeks to help seniors and older adults in Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook through programs, advocacy, and activities aimed to promote health and healthy aging. In the beginning of her time at ECSI, Sharon was mostly answering the phone or helping with the newsletter. But as time passed, she’s taken on new roles.

“I’ve basically been assisting the director for, oh my goodness, a very long time,” Sharon says with a laugh.

As the director of operations, Sharon says she’s still doing a lot of the tasks she was doing as an executive assistant such as answering the phone, keeping minutes for the various meetings, and helping people who call with questions.

“All the boards, they’re made up of volunteers and they change, so we’re the consistent ones here when people have questions,” explains Sharon.

“Since COVID, things have all changed so much all of us have to wear multiple hats here,” Sharon says. “Basically, if someone spills the coffee, you’re grabbing a mop and mopping it up and putting a sign so nobody falls.”

While the COIVD-19 pandemic did certainly affect ECSI, Sharon is proud to note it never stopped its mission of helping seniors. Sharon says the nutritional program increased its usage by about 30 percent and serves around 300 people a week thanks in part to partnerships with local restaurants in the city.

“Especially in the early days when people were afraid to go out, it was a big help,” says Sharon. “Not having the people here was the hardest part,” Sharon says.

The building at 220 Main Street, Old Saybrook has now reopened its gym and other services with appointments.

“We’ve slowly been bringing people back in ways we can keep people safe,” says Sharon.

Sharon says that the plan as of now is to bring back more in-person activities in September. That includes activities like card games, classes, crafting, and more.

“We want to get more of that social piece that we’re missing so much,” Sharon says.

On Saturday, Sept. 18, the center will hold an open house to show off the renovations and what in person activities they have to offer.

Finding her Place

Sharon says that even when she was younger, she gravitated to the older people.

“I’ve always been called an old soul,” Sharon remembers.

When she was younger cousins would be out playing, she was inside visiting with her aunts or grandparents.

“So, this was a natural fit,” says Sharon.

Sharon says her favorite part of working at ECSI is the people and the motivation she gets from seeing the seniors.

“They’re doing things that they want to be doing and it’s just nice to see,” Sharon says. “To have a 90-year-old come in and using our gym and keep going it just motivates you.”

She also enjoys seeing the people who are volunteers there become friends outside of the building.

Sharon grew up outside Chicago and moved to the East Coast in the early 2000 to be closer to her in-laws. Though she doesn’t live in Old Saybrook, Sharon says she does enjoy the town and the community, especially the hustle and bustle of downtown.

“The downtown and the Town Green and all the activity it offers is my favorite, as well as The Kate,” Sharon says.

In her spare time Sharon enjoys walking, hiking, gardening, reading, and ,when she can, visit family in the Midwest. Another hobby Sharon has picked up on is one she got from the people she sees at the Estuary: mind games and puzzles.

“I try to learn a lot the people we have I see it works for them so I thought ‘Well, I might as well give it a shot,’” Sharon says.