Spotlight on Sarah Frey
For Sarah Frey, the new social worker at Wallingford Community Senior Center, a busy day is a normal day. Area seniors call or meet with her for a range of needs so varied, it’s hard to believe they fit into one job description. Perhaps someone is starting to lose mobility or has questions about housing options. Maybe they need resources to help make ends meet, are feeling depressed, or are having memory lapses. Or perhaps someone who is caring for an aging parent needs support or respite. Frey provides information or a listening ear—in only eleven hours per week.
Working together with WCSC’s part-time outreach social worker, Lara Okoloko, Frey is excited to create plans to combat senior isolation, develop new programs, and extend the Center’s reach to neighborhoods beyond Wallingford. WCSC also serves as a learning site for a University of Washington master’s of social work student intern every year, which allows the Center to further expand its social service programs and implement new projects. So far, Frey says her favorite part of working at WCSC is “meeting new and returning people every day … from the volunteers, to the staff, to the seniors—everyone’s so happy to be here.”
Frey’s path to social work with seniors was a circuitous one. After majoring in English in college, she worked as a freelance writer, which allowed her to live in India, Massachusetts, Montana, and New Mexico. She then completed a year of training in contemplative psychotherapy at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, before moving to Washington. Her introduction to social work came through her job as a case manager and job-skills instructor for TRAC Associates, helping low-income Seattle residents find and retain living-wage jobs.
After taking some time off to start a family, Frey completed her master’s in social work while working as the manager of education and curricular programs in the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health. After graduating in 2011, she stayed in that department but moved into a research-coordinator position in the program for Global Mental Health. Frey still works there part-time on projects related to HIV, stigma, and behavioral health in low-resource populations around the world.
One downside to such interesting work is the timeline: getting a research grant can take a year or more and a project can take five years to create, test, and implement. That’s where her work at WCSC comes in as a counterbalance. Even though she’s only at WCSC for a limited time each week, Frey says, “In this work, you meet with someone, you work through an issue or locate some resources, and you feel that they get a benefit the very same day.”