Sharon Lemoine; ‘country girl’ was raised to serve others

PORT NECHES — Sharon Lemoine is more than just the director of the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center; she’s a true friend.

“It’s the love she has for us,” Grace Beaty, a member of the center, said of Lemoine. “I come here for the people and to see the smiles on their faces. I live alone and if I come here feeling low it perks me right up.”

The center, 1006 Port Neches Ave., serves as a place for senior citizens to get a hot nutritious meal and there are numerous activities to take part in but Lemoine goes above and beyond her role.

Betty Rigler, center, says grace before the meal as Sharon Lemoine, director of the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center, right, holds the microphone. Mary Meaux/The News

Betty Rigler, center, says grace before the meal as Sharon Lemoine, director of the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center, right, holds the microphone.
Mary Meaux/The News

“I can’t help it,” Lemoine said with a smile as a senior walked into her office to speak with her. “When you get to know these seniors, they’re your heart. A lot of the seniors live by themselves and just want someone to talk to. Yes, they do receive nutritious hot meals but many want someone to talk to. They could be sad when they get here but happy when they leave.”

Lemoine keeps her door open at all times and eagerly anticipates her time with the seniors.

“They come in and tell stories sitting on their heart,” she said.

Sharon Lemoine, director of the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center, makes announcements prior to lunchtime. Mary Meaux/The News

Sharon Lemoine, director of the Port Neches Senior Citizens Center, makes announcements prior to lunchtime.
Mary Meaux/The News

There are 125 members at the center, which is open from Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members spend their time playing bingo, Wii bowling, dominos, watching movies, line dancing, taking in live entertainment, playing games and more.

“This job is a job I can do and serve others,” Lemoine said. “I was raised to serve others, be kind and respectful of your elders and this is something God expects of me. They are more of a blessing to me than I am to them.”

Lemoine does what she can to make every day special — she bakes homemade goodies and brings them to the center, harvests fresh garden vegetables to share, festively decorates tables to welcome the seniors during their visits and more.

“I wanted to honor my veterans who come here on Veteran’s Day and an idea came to mind,” she said. “I asked them to tell me a little of what they did during World War II and videotaped it. It made their day to know they mattered to others.”

The videotaped testimonials can be seen on the Port Neches Senior Center’s Facebook page.

“Some of them don’t get to bake homemade items. They get to talking about something they used to bake and it gives me an idea. I go home and bake it,” she said of the numerous cookies, cupcakes and more she has brought to the center for the seniors. “It’s just an extra special treat for the seniors. I’m thinking of making a blackberry cobbler, use some of the blackberries in the freezer before the new ones are ready. Cupcakes, cookies, it’s just something extra special for them and to show they’re appreciated.”

Lemoine likes to throw themed parties. For Easter she will have a hat contest. Members will decorate an Easter hat and bring it in then they will parade around the center.

Knowing that sometimes seniors will get overlooked at Valentine’s Day she whipped up several batches of strawberry flavored Chex mix and packaged it up in cute bows.

Mardi Gras is another great one, she said. The members dress up head to toe in purple, gold and green with glitter and masks.

“Halloween is probably the best. They dress in costumes and get very creative. We even had a lady dress as Lady Gaga,” she said of member Mona Garner.

As the members age some may leave and go to a nursing home or are hospitalized.

“I always go and visit and bring a treat, snacks, a flower, just to share the love,” she said.

If a senior has a special need Lemoine will try and find a way to help.

“One senior’s husband has Alzheimer’s and has trouble sleeping, which is common with Alzheimer’s. I bought them some Sleepytime Tea, which is herbal tea. She said it helped,” she said. “I also have a senior who just started using a walker and didn’t know where to put her belongings so I’m sewing her a bag with multiple pockets in her favorite color, purple. Those are just little things and often they mean so much more.”

The death of a member is always painful. Since funerals are typically held during work hours Lemoine makes sure to go to the deceased’s visitation.

“I talk to the family and let them know how much the center cares about their loved one,” she said.

She also worries when a member misses a day at the center.

“It can be very emotional,” she said. “You take care of these individuals not only with a nutritious meal and fellowship and if they are not here we go and call them to check on them.”

Lemoine got her start working part time at the library.

“I loved working there because I was helping people. That’s where my heart is, to be of service to others,” she said.

From there she spent just over three years working in the city’s water department before the job of director at the senior center became available.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’ll be here when I retire,” she said. “I told them after I retire I’ll be up here line dancing with them.”

Lemoine hails from the small west Texas town of Hamlin and considers herself a country girl. She grew up gardening and enjoying the outdoors. She is married to Paul Lemoine, who is police chief in Port Neches. The couple has two daughters and a son and their family is about to expand very soon. Their son, who is a police officer in another town, and his wife are expecting a child and their oldest daughter and her husband are also expecting a child.

“We’re getting a boy and a girl,” she said with a smile.

Lemoine’s husband Paul is also a big outdoors person and the couple spends their outdoors time together. Paul is a beekeeper and Sharon is his assistant, she said. They harvest honey from the bees, raise chickens and a garden as well as spending time together fishing.

Her faith in God is a constant in her life.

“I couldn’t live in their world without knowing God. He protects my husband and son in their jobs (in law enforcement) and my daughters and He helps me when I lose a senior,” she said. “If I didn’t have faith and know they are going to where I’ll see the again I couldn’t do it.”

Email: mary.meaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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