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Rec employee retires after 23 years, reflects on changes

Candee Allen is retiring after 23 years in Brandon Recreation. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
December 21, 2011 - Candee Allen has seen plenty of changes in area recreation in two decades.

The Brandon Parks and Recreation administrative assistant is retiring after nearly 23 years of employment by the township. A party celebrating her years of service is planned for 5 -8 p.m., Jan. 3 at the Edna Burton Senior Center, 345 Ball St.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my job, this is the best job I've ever had," said Allen, who, prior to being hired by the Brandon Groveland Ortonville Joint Recreation Commission in 1989, worked in food service for Brandon Schools. "What I do is for the kids. I've always been proud of the work I do here."

In January 1991, Allen was promoted to full-time administrative assistant by BGO and in October 1999 the commission became Brandon Township Recreation when the township took over. It is now known as Brandon Township Parks and Recreation. Allen has worked under four recreation directors, including Gretchen Randall from 1989-1997 and current Recreation Director Fred Waybrant since 1999.

"It's been a pleasure working side by side with her," said Waybrant. "We've seen a lot of changes, ups and downs in registration and we've hung in there and kept things going. I will miss her kindness and commitment to the community."

Allen said recreation registrations were at their height in the mid-1990s, with "easily" 550 kids in baseball/softball, and 16 teams for adult co-ed volleyball. She estimates that in recreation's "heyday" they had about 40 programs and 7,000 participants per year.

"The phones were ringing off the hook in the 90s," recalled Allen, who laughs as she remembers some of the most bizarre calls she has received over the years, including the ones inquiring where to get a babysitter, an oil change, a manicure.

"You name anything, they will call our office."

Allen will miss the customers the most. This week, she had a woman who recently moved to the area come in with two small children, looking for things to do.

"I told her, 'You will love it here,'" Allen said. "This community is special, giving. People give, you just have to ask. Some businesses, I walk in looking for sponsors for soccer teams, baseball, equipment, and they just ask what I need. The businesses are very supportive and always have been."

Recreation has suffered in recent years, with registration down to about 4,000 participants in 20-25 programs.

"We're in harder times now, definitely," said Allen. "I thought I'd never say it, but I miss the days of going on field trips with the kids. Gretchen and I used to take two busloads of kids to the bowling alley in Grand Blanc, every Saturday for 6 weeks. We did that for years. We used to have horseback riding, too. We've gone backwards on some stuff, I blame the economy. When you don't have participation, you can't have programs."

The decrease helped spell the end of Allen's job, as the township board voted to eliminate the full-time position to save money.

In her retirement, Allen said she plans to sew more and help out her and husband Ron's elderly parents more. She also will spend more time with their five grandchildren and work on her golf game.

"I'm closing this chapter," she said. "It's been a wonderful experience for me."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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