Decades ago, Pat Freeman balked when she was first asked by her boss to move from a job working with youth to one focused on aging.
But then, “I started thinking about how I was raised and how important my grandparents were,” she said.
Freeman hesitated no more, instead embarking on a career in aging services that has lasted 42 years, the last 21 as head of the Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging, which opened in Gainesville but has been based the past few years at 4080 Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood.
She was recognized for her service Wednesday, Nov. 7, by the Legacy Link board at the agency’s Thanksgiving luncheon. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award in appreciation for her “visionary guidance and outstanding leadership.”
“Pat has had a tremendous impact on seniors in Gainesville-Hall County and throughout North Georgia,” agency spokesman Don Colombero said.
“It was a nice surprise,” Freeman said of the award, in an interview after the luncheon.
The Missouri native began her advocacy work when aging services were handled by the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission. Wanting a health services component the program didn’t offer under GMRC, she created the nonprofit Legacy Link in 1997.
Legacy Link handles case management statewide for two different Medicaid programs.
With a caseload of about 1,300 people, “we work with families to help figure out services to come into the homes (of older residents) and keep them out of nursing homes,” Freeman said.
Legacy Link primarily operates in a 13-county area, including Hall, offering a wide variety of programs and services for older residents, including employment and training for those continuing to work, wellness and volunteer service programs.
Over the years, “I’ve done grant applications and, as other things have become available through the state government, we would apply for it,” Freeman said. “When you’re successful and doing a good job, people come to you and say, ‘You’re doing good on this. Why don’t you try this?’”
As result of expanding programs, the agency has grown from five workers to 123 over the years, she said.
At 79, Freeman has decided to cut back some on her work.
“I’m going to go part-time in a few weeks,” she said.
As far as full retirement, “I don’t know when that will be, but sometime.”
And considering her agency’s function and her own age, she quipped, “I gotta get it right for when I need it, huh?”