Linda VanDerLeest to serve as coordinator of Senior Adult Ministries at First United Methodist

Claudia Loucks
Linda VanDerLeest

When Linda VanDerLeest retired at the end of the 2020-2021 school year as a guidance counselor at Geneseo High School, she said she planned to travel, play golf, drive the van for Allure, volunteer at Hammond-Henry Hospital and “reflect on God’s intention for my life in ministry.”

It didn’t take long for VanDerLeest to hear what God was calling her to do, as she recently accepted an invitation to serve as Coordinator of Senior Adult Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Geneseo, the church she has called “home” for the last 20 years.

In this new role, VanDerLeest will be working to energize and expand the ministries to and with active seniors.

She said her goals are:

-“To create new and innovative activities for senior adults.

-Help plan and create new events for senior adults and assist as called upon, with other events that currently exist at church for senior adults.”

One of the first events VanDerLeest helped with was the Primetime Luncheon held Aug. 25, when those in attendance were surveyed regarding their interest in different activities in the community and surrounding areas…’Once I have those, I will work with Yvette Biddle, Director of Discipleship, to expand activities and goals.”

The Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter, directing pastor at First United Methodist Church, said, “Linda brings a wealth of leadership experience form her 41 years in education and her time as Geneseo’s Mayor. But perhaps the most impactful gifts are her obvious love and respect for senior adults. We are so excited to have her in this role.”

A volunteer ministry role, the coordinator of Senior Adult Ministries works with the church’s Director of Discipleship to enhance opportunities for senior adults to serve, grow in their faith, and fellowship with one another…”This serves our mission of drawing people to Jesus, developing people in Jesus, and deploying people for Jesus,” Ritter said.

In response with asked about working with the senior adults, VanDerLeest said, “I adore their ‘young at heart’ approach to living. When I first visited First Methodist, I felt right at home because I knew many of the members. For instance, I made an immediate connection with Barb Schroeder since we’d Jazzercise together and with Marian Rodgers since we’d played golf together (she was my go-to putter)! I worked with Connie Chrisop at the high school and John and Donna Nelson were two of my biggest fans when I coached girls’ basketball.”

VanDerLeest said she often “feels a sense of peace when I am around these senior adults…It makes me feel like I am with my Mom. They are devout Christians that are kind, generous, loving and dedicated to their faith, much the same as my Mother was.”

After graduating from Morrison High School, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree – PE and a Minor in Health at University of Wisconsin - Platteville; and received her Master of Counseling Degree from Western Illinois University, Macomb.

Her career in education began at Newman Central Catholic High School, Sterling, 1980-1991, where she taught physical education, health and psychology and coached volleyball, basketball, and track and field.

She became a guidance counselor at Geneseo High School in 1991 where she worked until her recent retirement…And she never planned to be idle in retirement.

For more information about VanDerLeest and the Senior Adult Ministry at First Methodist, call 309-944-5438.