Smith began her career with Fun and Friends almost 10 years ago, on the corner of Front and Chestnut streets in Thayer. The center is housed in the former Piggly Wiggly building, which was also once a factory and Big H Grocery.
"I came down here to do volunteer work," Smith said.
After only a short time on the job, Smith was promoted to assistant administrator, quickly followed by her final position as administrator.
A Thayer native and longtime hairdresser at Unique hair salon in Thayer, Smith said she will miss the daily interactions with everyone at the center, although she is confident in a smooth transition by her successor, Lynn Martin, also a Thayer native.
"I think Lynn is going to be a wonderful administrator," Smith said. "And, this community will welcome her with open arms."
The center hosts many activities and programs for seniors, including a monthly foot care clinic, tax assistance, homebound meal delivery, housecleaning services, recreation and noontime meals at the center.
About 50 volunteers regularly help at the center, the majority of whom deliver or prepare meals. Many start at 7 a.m. packaging individual slices of bread or servings of cereal while the cooks begin making meals.
"Our cooks can make a lot of food, and they're friendly," Smith said. "You've got to have a friendly staff for a center like this."
Workers prepare an average of 369 meals a day, of which 70 are served in the center. The other meals are delivered to seniors in and around the Thayer community on seven routes.
Other organizations lease the Fun and Friends center for meetings and events, such as Weight Watchers and Ozark Action weekly gatherings.
"This is kind of a meeting place for all things," Smith said. "I think, without this center, the community would be lost."
Smith added that the center also would have failed without community support. During Smith's tenure, the facility endured two damaging floods, one that displaced Fun and Friends for six months. Through the generosity of residents, the former Old Dutch Oven Restaurant and Masonic Temple members who donated kitchen space, Fun and Friends survived the disasters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and SWMOA (Southwest Missouri Office on Aging) granted the center $43,000 and $25,000, respectively, to install sump pumps and French drains and replace the flooring after one rainy season created a spring that ran through the center of the building.
"It's been a struggle," Smith said. "Every time it rains, we worry."
Smith said good came of the misfortune.
"In all of that, the board and employees worked together and stuck together," Smith said. "It made us stronger."
Fun and Friends is served by a board of nine members, most who are age 60 or older. The board is chaired by George Mainprize.
Martin, who owns Robinson Memorial in Thayer with her husband, Gene Martin, and her sister, took over on Monday, April 2. Martin said she is excited to begin her new career. She was selected from a field of 13 applicants.
Fun and Friends is partially funded by SWMOA, private donations and fund-raisers.
The center has two pool tables, a quilting area, tables for ongoing puzzle-building, free WiFi and computer use, a TV area and large dining area with a salad bar and coffee station. The hours are 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.