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Local community leader to retire after three decades of service

Longtime executive director of St. Joseph's AFL-CIO is retiring after three decades. Penny Adams announced early July that her last day will be September 29 after 32 years.

Posted: Jul 19, 2021 6:11 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2021 9:41 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The longtime director of St. Joseph's AFL-CIO has her sights set on retirement in coming months. 

Executive Director Penny Adams decided after 32 years it was time to step aside.

"She's the one that everybody remembers; is Penny Adams," said Adams' co-worker Tammy Brooks.

For three decades, Penny Adams has been answering the 24-hour help hotline, helping individuals and families in St. Joseph with any level of crisis. 

Adams said as the job continues to change each year, it was time to step down.

"I've decided to retire because I've been here over 30 years...32...and I don't want to wear out my welcome, and somebody else deserves the pleasure of this job for a while," said Penny Adams.

The community service figure started off as a volunteer for St. Joseph's AFL-CIO back in 1987.  In 1989 she became a full-time employee, gradually working her way up to executive director in 2011.

"I would stay late at night trying to fix things," said Adams. "That was our job; to fix people's problems."

Penny spent years connecting the dots within the community. Adams after many late-nights, faxing papers, and creating spreadsheets, she was finally able to connect individuals directly to the agencies they needed.

"It's gonna be hard with her not here, especially this (year) being the first Adopt-A-Family that I'll have worked that she won't be here," said Tammy Brooks.

Many in the community praise Penny Adams on her efforts in building the Adopt-A-Family Christmas Program. The popular program has helped thousands of families over the years celebrate the holidays for families in need.

"It has grown by leaps and bounds," said the retiring director. "The first year I was involved, probably a couple hundred [families] were coming in and getting stuff out of that room. But after we got going, it grew so quick. Our highest year was the year of the flood and we served over 1,200 families."

Adams says it takes agencies, churches and residents in the city working together to make all of her work over the years possible. And while her official time as executive director is coming to an end, her work, and the work of AFL-CIO will continue on.

"My theory is 'you can't ask more out of your community than what you're willing to give.' I still want to be involved with my community to do things and help others," said Adams.

Adams' last day at St. Joseph's AFL-CIO is September 29. A hiring board is currently in the process of finding a replacement. 

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