The Helm welcomes 2 new board members

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 22, 2021





HARPER WOODS — The Helm at the Boll Life Center, which serves senior citizens in the Harper Woods and Grosse Pointe communities, has named two new members to its board.

The two new board members are Cheryl Wesen and Terence Thomas, who will take the places of two board members who reached their term limits.

“We had two people leave the board since we have term limits of two three-year terms,” explained Helm Executive Director Peggy Hayes. “We needed to replace the outgoing board members Catherine O’Malley and Jane Lightfoot, who both did a great job during their time here.”

Hayes said Wesen and Thomas were selected due to their dedication, their history of service and their prior connections within the community.

“They both have been supporters of the Helm in the past,” she said. “They have even used our services. We wanted someone who had experience with local government, and Terence had that, and we also wanted someone who had experience working with seniors, and they both had that. We have one doctor on the board already, but having another in Cheryl will definitely add to our expertise and help us work with local hospitals.”

Wesen is the medical director of the breast care program at Ascension St. John Hospital. She is active in the community as a board member on the St. John Foundation and as a vestry member at Christ Church Grosse Pointe. She has served Ascension St. John Hospital in a number of roles including president and past president of the medical staff, and interim chief of the department of surgery. She is a clinical associate professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and is involved in numerous professional organizations. She received her general surgery training in the U.S. Army, where she served 16 years and was honorably discharged as a lieutenant colonel.

Thomas is co-founder of Thomas Group Consulting Inc., a community engagement, receivership services and business services company headquartered in Detroit. Actively involved in the community, he is a member of Grosse Pointe City Council and serves on the boards of St. John Hospital Foundation, Loyola High School, Covenant House of Michigan and the Board of Advisors for the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.

The pair officially began their terms on the board Jan. 1. Wesen expressed her satisfaction in being added to the board.

“I am thrilled. I have always admired what the Helm and, before them, Services for Older Citizens have provided to senior citizens in our community, so getting to help guide that future is an honor,” she said. “This is a great community service for the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods, and I encourage people to see what we offer and take advantage of them.”

Thomas said he was equally happy to be named to the board and added that the mission of helping senior citizens is a personal one for him.

“It feels great to be in this role,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. My mom passed away at the age of 88 two years ago. She didn’t have the resources to remain independent, so that is something that is very important to me.”

Both said they have a lot they would like to accomplish in their new roles, starting with getting more programs back up and running after so much was shut down by COVID-19.

“I think that expanding programs and services to reach more of our older citizens is a priority, as well as encouraging those who don’t think of themselves as older citizens but are approaching retirement age to take part in programs and resources and helping improve those resources for them,” said Wesen.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to review the strategic plans, but if we are able to expand services to more eligible members of our community, it would be in line with our objectives,” added Thomas. “I want to see the profile of the organization raised so people know we can be there for them or their parents. We want to be a part of making new partnerships and new friendships as well. … I want more people to be aware of the Helm, and I hope to increase the resources available for seniors in our community to live high-quality and independent lives.”

Both Wesen and Thomas were suggested by Helm officials for the positions and were invited to apply.

“Board members are first suggested by people in the community or (they) volunteer,” said Hayes. “Sometimes they are sought after for a particular skill set. We then interview them and look at their background and skills. Then the board votes to accept them or not. We look for people with a variety of experiences. They are the advisers to our staff, so they need to be people who will be active in the community and play an active role.”

Both said they were happy to see others think that they would bring something unique to the Helm.

“I was recommended by the chairman of the board, Doug Blatt, who I’ve known for a number of years,” remarked Wesen. “He indicated that because of my associations with other committees and with hospitals, he thought I could bring a new perspective and some enthusiasm to the board.”

“I was encouraged to apply,” added Thomas. “For several years I served with Ascension Health in working with seniors, and a lot of people at the Helm knew about that and thought I would make a good contribution to the board, so I was invited to join. I had worked with them before, so it seemed like a good fit.”

With its board back to full strength, the Helm is now looking at ways to once again reach out into the community, albeit in safe and healthy ways.

“We’re trying to get back to normal operations for now. We had so many programs going into last year when the shutdowns began, so we are trying to build back up to that and find new ways to serve the community,” said Hayes. “We have reopened since the last pandemic shutdown, but we are carefully following all of the guidelines. We had to shut down from Nov. 17 until Feb. 1, so we are very excited to be serving again. We still did tons of outreach to the community while we were closed. We did carryout and provided medical counseling and still did virtual programs. Keeping these resources available to senior citizens is very important.”