Senior Games Coordinator Phyllis Loflin-Kluttz still on the job after 20 years
The thought of retirement has crossed the mind of Phyllis Loflin-Kluttz a time or two, but the love for her job outweighs the feeling every time. Loflin-Kluttz is the coordinator for the Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games and SilverArts programs, a job she’s held for nearly 20 years.
In 1993, a 39-year-old Loflin-Kluttz took on the job as a part-time coordinator managing 20 participants. Under Loflin-Kluttz’s direction, the program has grown to include 300 athletes and artists.
Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games is a year-round health and wellness program for adults 55 years old and older and is offered through the Rowan County Parks and Recreation Department. SilverArts provides a creative avenue for artists. The Senior Games and SilverArts are nonprofit programs.
Her participants in the programs are what have motivated the Rowan native to wake up every morning and return to work.
“The participants enthusiasm and excitement,” she said of her job, “they are so appreciative that I give them this much fun stuff to do.”
Athletes compete in such activities as track and field events, bocce, table tennis, archery, billiards, swimming, cycling, shuffleboard, cornhole and bowling.
“What else would I be doing,” she said with a raspy laugh.
Loflin-Kluttz has a specific morning routine that includes going to her garage, getting inside her car and saying a prayer.
“I talk to God. Whatever it will be that day, I turn it over to him,” she said.
Her husband, George, walked into the garage during one of her conversations with God and inquired as to what she was doing. Loflin-Kluttz simply said she was praying and talking to God.
“That’s my quiet time,” she said.
Loflin-Kluttz is in the midst of the Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games, which began April 1 and will conclude May 1. The athletes are now competing to see who participates in the National Senior Games. Loflin-Kluttz was recently at Ellis Park, clipboard in hand, judging archery candidates. She’s been eligible for the last three or four years, but had not participated herself until a few years ago. She competed in bocce on Monday.
She said she’s inspired by everyone of her athletes and artists.
“The things that they do,” Loflin-Kluttz said.
One look around Loflin-Kluttz’s office shows how proud she is of her participants — their pictures, T-shirts and trophies are scattered throughout the office.
She’s a Doll
George said he remembers when his wife first began managing the program in the early 1990s when the word senior wasn’t even on her mind. He’s seen her love of the athletes and artists she works with grow throughout the years.
“The first thing that really comes to mind is the love and passion she has for the program in general. It quickly became about the people,” George said.
She fell in love with the spirit of the athletes and artists to put themselves out there to play or create something one more time.
When Loflin-Kluttz gets tired and thinks about hanging up her clipboard, George said he reminds his wife she gives the athletes and artists a place to showcase their skills and talents.
Dr. Jim Epperson is a commission chair of the Rowan County Parks and Recreation Department and also part of the basketball team for a number of years. It was Loflin-Kluttz who instituted team sports into the Rowan County program.
“It’s so nice to see what she’s done with participation. She’s extremely supportive of all the athletes. She knows how to get people involved,” Epperson said of Loflin-Kluttz.
Loflin-Kluttz has also garnered the respect of not only the local athletes who participate in her programs but other athletes and program directors and coordinators alike, he said.
“No single county in the state has more participation than Rowan County and it’s because of Phyllis,” Epperson said.
“Phyllis is just very good at what she does,” said friend and supervisor Renita Ritchie. Ritchie is the therapeutic recreation supervisor, of which Loflin-Kluttz is a part of the department.
The county provides Loflin-Kluttz with a $3,000 budget and she raises $15,000, which supports her programs. Ritchie applauded all of the work Loflin-kluttz puts into the programs.
“A big part is she has respect for everybody. She’s so good with people,” Ritchie said.
Loflin-Kluttz spends countless hours, days and months fundraising, planning sporting events, assisting athletes and artists. She also relies heavily on students from Livingstone College and Catawba College and volunteers to assist her with the program. Charles Underwood is one of those volunteers, but is also a participant and former classmate.
Underwood attended North Rowan High School with Loflin-Kluttz and said he remembers her as an outgoing, athletic student.
“She’s a real easygoing lady. There’s so much that she can do,” Underwood said.
He said she’ll regularly remind the athletes “it’s only a game.”
Underwood often stops by Loflin-Kluttz’s office at Ellis Park to say hello. Underwood said he makes sure Loflin-Kluttz knows anything that needs to be done, he’ll do it.
“My time is my wife’s time and Phyllis’ time,” Underwood joked.
He said his former classmate is someone who goes above and beyond for her job.
“She’s a true friend. You couldn’t ask for a better lady. She’s a doll,” Underwood said.
On the advice of her brother and sister-in-law, Loflin-Kluttz became a flight attendant with Continental Airlines. She recalled her first interview with the company. The airline flew her to Houston, Texas.
“I had never seen a city that large and that many beautiful women,” she said.
She stayed at the Marriott and underwent a number of interviews. Loflin-Kluttz was one among thousands of applicants, but was hired. She worked as a stewardess for seven years.
“Those experiences gave me the ability to chase arrows out of bushes,” she said.
When she left the airline industry, Loflin-Kluttz became a tour director with a travel agency. She would book and fly with groups on trips out of the state and country. Loflin-Kluttz then became a corporate agent, booking trips for business travelers.
She then began teaching others about the travel industry and coordinating Senior Games and SilverArts part time.
When she first became coordinator she watched others to see how they ran their programs.
“I had no idea how to run a sporting event at all. I taught myself by watching others,” she said.
Now her program has become an example of a growing, thriving program. Loflin-Kluttz would often speak about Senior Games or SilverArts to seniors at lunch club sites and didn’t have much luck in getting new recruits. She developed a trivia competition at the lunch club sites and many of the seniors couldn’t wait to participate in other parts of the programs.
“They were finding out it really is fun,” she said.