MONROE, CT — Henna Ali, Monroe’s Community and Social Services director, will serve the town one last time this Friday, before moving to Florida with her husband and their two children. Ali, 33, who grew up in Monroe and is a member of Masuk’s Class of 2005, held her post for nearly two years.
During an interview in her office at the Monroe Senior Center Friday, Ali said the people are what she will miss most, including staff members, town officials, volunteers, residents and clients she has gotten to know.
“Everyone has been so supportive of me and I enjoyed seeing the kindness and generosity of the town on a day-to-day basis,” Ali said.
In her role as Community Services director, Ali oversees operations at the Monroe Food Pantry and the Senior Center, as well as social and elderly services and programs.
“I think we always strive to meet all the resources we can for an individual,” she said, “and I think we’re lucky we’re in a town that does strive to make sure people are not without.”
Ali’s family moved to Monroe from California when she was three-or-four-years-old and she has lived in town ever since.
As a girl, Ali spent many summers in her parents’ native country of Pakistan. “To see how people live in countries like that, I think feeling grateful came at a young age,” she recalled. Ali said the experience influenced her career path, as well as her passion for helping others.
She went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut and to work at Greenwich Hospital and residential care homes before being hired by the town.
Pandemic spurs needs
The past year was a memorable one for Ali, as the need for town services increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff members and volunteers helped the town’s seniors and financially strapped families during the lockdown.
One program offered by the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging brought a weekly delivery of grocery bags to the Monroe Senior Center, which six town staffers and 10 volunteers distributed to seniors throughout the town.
“We got over 200 bags of groceries to seniors per week,” Ali said, “every Monday at the height of the pandemic, from April through June.”
The senior center bus was used for the food deliveries, along with personal vehicles. Ali said some seniors signed up for the groceries and town staff reached out to others, they thought might want to participate.
Veronica Jensen, the town’s elderly services coordinator, said the bags contained a dozen eggs, fresh produce, cheese, oatmeal and nonperishable foods.
“We wore masks and gloves and we had to deliver it from a six feet distance,” Jensen said. “They came outside and grabbed the bag.”
Ali said no hesitation was expressed from those asked to volunteer for the effort. “Everyone banding together, it was good to see,” she said.
“We had a good team here,” Ali said, reflecting on her staff. “My team and the work we provided … I was only here two years, but I felt like part of the Monroe family — and that’s what I’m going to miss.”
“She’s been a wonderful director to work under,” Jensen said of Ali. “She’s supportive. We’re a good team and she’s a great leader. We’ve been able to
accomplish a lot of great things during COVID with her leadership and guidance and we’re going to miss her greatly.”
“It was awesome working with her and we wish her all the luck in the world,” said Rosemary Syarto, a bus driver. “Everybody in the office will miss her. We don’t want her to go.”