Manyak settles in as COA director

4/13/2017 | Payton North

Category: April

Sherry Manyak is the new director of the Council on Aging at RiverMills Center.
Reminder Publications photo by Payton North

The Chicopee Council on Aging at the RiverMills Center has a new director, Sherry Manyak, 46, of Chicopee. She replaces Sandra Lapollo, who acted as executive director for 24 years.

Manyak attended University of Massachusetts Amherst and graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Business Administration, Educational Leadership and Administration in 2014. Since then, she’s had extensive experience in management, working in the childcare field for the past 25 years.

Manyak has had several jobs in the childcare field and in numerous positions including a teacher and a director. She’s worked in large centers with up to 350 children and in smaller centers with 100 kids. In the past, Manyak’s responsibilities included managing staff, overseeing the needs of the children and families and supervising the maintenance of several buildings.  

While it may look like an opposite end of the spectrum going from working with children to seniors, Manyak argues it’s not as big of a change as one may think. “I love working with people, I love helping people, so it’s really not much different. The work is a little different but it’s still building relationships, whether it’s with children or adults, it’s still how you treat them and how you work with them,” she said.

Now, as the Senior Center’s new director, Manyak has many responsibilities.  In the two and a half months she’s been at the RiverMills Center, she’s written two grants, one of which the center has received to fund new activities such as their Aging Mastery Program, which begins in May. Manyak has also been instrumental in the creation of a Pop-Up-Pantry collaboration with Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen. The Collegian Court is collaborating with the center, holding several events over the course of the year. Among them, there will be a “Paint and Sip” class, breakfast with a police officer and a terrarium program. Manyak is also working with the help of Chicopee Gardens to host the RiverMills center’s first spaghetti supper. All of the proceeds from the event will go toward new kitchen equipment.

Manyak thinks that keeping seniors active and involved in the center is key.  However, a lot of the seniors are still active outside of the center working and holding jobs. This has made it difficult for some seniors to come to RiverMills, as up until recently most programs were during the day.  “They weren’t able to utilize our center, so we have a few nights a week and Saturdays that they’ll be able to come and join us, too.” Manyak has set up several programs in the afternoon and evening for the members of Chicopee Council on Aging, including Zumba classes, a yoga program, bingo, cards, birthday parties, tea parties, movie days, and a travel club.

In the future, Manyak hopes to add outdoor features for the seniors to enjoy. “We are looking into building an outside patio for people to enjoy the beautiful scenery we have.  They’ll be able to eat, read a book or just enjoy the fresh air.  Our vision is to just make this a place where people want to come. The staff works as a team to provide the best experience for everyone.”

When she isn’t working, Manyak enjoys spending time with her son John Henry, 11, and her two step-daughters Alyssa, 18, and Jenna, 15.  More information on the RiverMills Council on Aging can be found at

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