Harmony Leonard’s role in Highland County is a lesson in anatomy.
As VPAS Highland Senior Services Coordinator, her mornings in the office begin with neighbors stopping by with problems, solutions to share, or vital information about community needs. “I am an ear for those who need to vent, a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, and a helping hand when they need help,” says Harmony.
Having experienced an “eclectic life” before joining VPAS in 2013, Harmony lived in 11 different states and moved enough times that she had U-Haul on speed dial. But once she settled on the “Island of Highland”, she immediately connected to the complicated community interwoven by history, nature, and people.
It is the people especially that she loves. The first older adult Harmony worked with closely was Hannah. Ms. Hannah lived alone, was nearly blind, heated her home with wood, and was the most cheerful, spunky woman Harmony had ever met. “She taught me about how to age, how to embrace life positively as the cards are dealt you, and how to die,” says Harmony. Though Hannah passed away in 2015, she remains a source of inspiration for Harmony, who thinks of her every day.
But it’s not just the older residents Harmony targets in her work. She has a clear vision for Highland County that requires outreach to residents of all ages. ” I would like the Highland community to embrace aging with such force that all people - especially those in decision making positions - will make decisions that will contribute to a vibrant community that will support us as we age,” she says. And so Harmony makes herself available to community members in a seamless way of life that means people can call her at home, stop her to chat when she’s walking her dogs, or connect with her as she volunteers for the Highland Medical Center and Positive Momentum LLC.
Meanwhile, Harmony is seeing many tangible results that validate her work. Despite challenges in meeting the high demand for senior transportation, she is able to juggle people and appointments to get people where they need to be. And the personal emergency response system she manages has helped many neighbors in a fall or medical emergency. “I would like to think that the older people and their families have in me someone who can help them find the resources they need to remain in the community,” says Harmony.
And despite her many moves, it looks like she might want to stay put, too. “I never expected to be in one place or one job for 5 years,” says Harmony. “We are isolated, rural, and few people, but working as I do with people who are aging is a tremendous gift that I enjoy every day!”
Harmony in front of the new VPAS office in Highland County.