The sudden departure of a service coordinator at Island Elderly Housing (IEH) has left a void for many of the organization’s senior residents.
Ann Baird, who worked with IEH for 16 years, is no longer employed at IEH. Baird, a favorite among IEH residents, provided residents resources and referrals to Vineyard services, such as specific daily programs for the elderly and disabled, statewide contacts for assistance, or health, medical, and homecare services, and other support that residents may need. Baird could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a packed community meeting room at Woodside Village in Oak Bluffs Thursday, residents expressed their disappointment and fear that Baird was gone. IEH is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and offers affordable rental apartments for people over the age of 62. Woodside Village, which has 95 apartments, is the largest of the four campuses IEH operates in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.
IEH executive director Dorothy Young and IEH board treasurer Robert Edmunds told the residents they could not comment on Baird’s departure, and they refused to say if she was terminated or quit. Board president Simone DeSorcy, who could not attend the meeting, told The Times in an email she could not comment on personnel matters.
“I will not comment, nor can I legally comment … on a personnel matter,” Edmunds said. “It affects you, but you don’t have a role in the decisionmaking process. I’m sorry about that, but that’s the way it is.”
When residents asked who was responsible for Baird’s departure, Edmunds said that for the most part, Young is responsible for hiring and firing staff.
Residents also expressed frustration that they were not informed of Baird leaving IEH, and were alarmed that Young would take over Baird’s duties.
Ed LaPiene, who has lived at Woodside Village for 14 years, said Baird was one of the first people he met when he moved in, and she helped him get to and from his doctor’s appointments off-Island, among other services.
“She did all the service for me because I was ignorant about it. We became friends. I trusted her so much. I can’t believe that she would be terminated from this position,” LaPiene said. “I don’t think I want to trust Dorothy … Ann was involved deeply, and I don’t think Dorothy is capable of doing that.”
Several other residents became emotional while talking about Baird, saying she was the only person they trusted, and felt their lives depend on her helping them.
“Ann was, is the most beloved employee of Island Elderly Housing. Without a doubt, there’s nobody even close,” Bill Blakesley, one of the residents, said.
Residents pleaded with Young and Edmunds to hire Baird back. Calling the situation “not a happy time,” Edmunds said a replacement will be found for Baird, but residents felt it would be impossible to fill her shoes.
“When you’ve heard all that Ann’s done for everybody, how can you possibly say that the people that work here now can possibly absorb what she did? I mean, how are you going to handle that?” Linda Carnegie, another resident, asked Young, who is taking over service coordinator duties until a replacement is found.
Young said she supervised Baird for a long time, and that the job is really just connecting residents with services, but residents said Baird consistently went above the call of duty.
“I certainly can help with certain things,” Young said. “I’ll do my best.”
“She’s our livelihood,” Josephine Tucker, another resident, said. “The abrupt dismissal was not fair to us.”