LACONIA — "it's hard to leave," Maggie Rushbrook conceded yesterday, her last as head nurse at the Community Wellness Center at Normandin Square as she was showered with cards, flowers, food and gifts by those with whom she has shared the last decade.
"She is the heart beat of the Wellness Center," said Lorraine Parkhurst of Gilford. "She has worked here heart and soul. If you had come her earlier, you wouldn't have gotten in there were so many people here to say goodbye."
In 2004, when LRGHealthcare announced it could no longer sustain the center, Rushbrook, together with John Allen, a retired minister of St. James Episcopal Church, led the effort to place it on a sound financial footing and in a suitable permanent home. With the support of generous clients, individuals and businesses as well as assistance from the hospital company, they raised the funds to purchase the space on the ground floor at Normandin Square Apartments while increased memberships defrayed operating costs. Since 2006 the center has operated as a self-supporting department of LRGHealthcare.
"Together we have turned a dream into a reality," Rushbrook wrote high on a wall of the center. "The Center is an outward sign of an inward faith and determination. Thanks to all who believed!"
Rushbrook said that the center offers supervised exercise regimens designed to increase stamina and strength for individuals with a wide range of medical conditions that hinder their mobility. "We have people in their late 30s and one person 96 years old," she noted. But, just as important as the physical exercise, she stressed, is the social camaraderie. "They renew old friendships and make new ones," she remarked. "if someone is missing, they'' get a phone in the next day to make sure they're okay."
As one person after another said their goodbyes, Rushbrook said "it's a roller-coaster around here. One minute you're laughing and the next you're crying."
A message, penned on a whiteboard, read "if you love your job, you will never work another day in your life. It has been an honor and a privilege to care for and to care about you. Love, Maggie."
CAPTION: Maggie Rushbrook (center and inset) is surrounded by just some of the many men and women she has served at Community Wellness Center who paid their respects when she retired yesterday (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)