In her late 50s, Winnie Townsend had made up her mind that she wouldn’t work for anyone else again in her life.

In her late 50s, Winnie Townsend had made up her mind that she wouldn’t work for anyone else again in her life.

She laughs about that comment now, three years after securing a job as the nutrition site aide at the Palmer Center in Independence. Townsend said she now has the best job of her life, which isn’t bad, considering a friend actually notified Townsend of the job opening.  

From children to seniors, Townsend has worked with and interacted with people of all ages in her jobs. She used to do home health care where she took care of older residents. She also worked in several hospitals, delivering snacks to patients. Townsend was known as the “cafeteria lady” when she ran the kitchen at the now-closed Englewood Christian Academy.

Townsend supervises about 15 volunteers at the Palmer Center’s kitchen, prepares their daily work schedule and keeps the lunch preparations moving smoothly.

“They’re really good people. They work like they’re getting paid a million dollars a day,” Townsend said. “They’re good at what they do, and I couldn’t do it without them.”

Townsend looks younger than her 62 years in a blue polo shirt, khaki pants, silver hoop earrings and tiny hair braids. Townsend also is always full of boundless energy, said Peggy Sowders, the Palmer Center’s senior adult programs specialist and Townsend’s supervisor.

“It always takes a special person to work with the population that we work with,” Sowders said.

One of Townsend’s biggest fans is Joseph O’Donnell, an 88-year-old former Marine who volunteers in the kitchen twice a week.

“Nice gal,” O’Donnell said of Townsend. “She’s in the kind of job she should be in.”

Between 90 and 135 residents attend the lunches at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and about 90 additional residents have the meals delivered to their homes.

After Townsend’s six-hour shift ends at 2 p.m., she sticks around and plays card golf and dominoes with the older residents.

Townsend does a good job of balancing her role as a city employee with being the residents’ friend and confidante, Sowders said.

“These people here are really inspiring to me,” Townsend said. “Some of them have a lot of health challenges, and they don’t let it stop them. They feel like it’s important for them to be around other people, especially because they are aging and getting older.”

On July 5, the Independence City Council will recognize Townsend as the city’s Employee of the Month. Sowders nominated Townsend after she learned of Townsend giving back to a homebound resident who receives lunches.

Without being prompted to do so, Townsend took basic necessities to the resident and the grandson she is raising alone, something that isn’t included in Townsend’s job description.

The woman who didn’t want to work for anyone else again less than five years ago has made one point clear: She isn’t going anywhere.

“I tease them, and I say, ‘I’m going to retire so that I can be a volunteer and do what I want to do,’” Townsend said, laughing. “I probably will volunteer somewhere once I stop working ’cause I am just not the one to sit around.”

Some don’t think she’s going anywhere, though.

“She’s not going to retire,” O’Donnell said. “She’s just as content up here as if she were doing something at home that she likes.”