Tag Archives: Terry Giegengack

Remembering Fran Reynolds

Fran Reynolds — for 25 years, Westport’s Department of Human Services senior services coordinator — died last week at 89. Longtime colleague Terry Giegengack sent along these thoughts:

Fran Reynolds passed away last Friday at Norwalk Hospital with her beloved daughters and family by her side. She will be remembered with loving respect by many — including those she worked with at Westport’s Department of Human Services.

Fran developed Senior Social Services many years ago. She was the heart and soul of the Human Services Department. As a young working mother for Senior Services, I appreciated her kindness and understanding, as well as her high standards of excellence in work performance.

The continuing professional education that I was fortunate to receive in Westport’s Human Services Department, from Fran and others noted below, provided the foundation for a lifetime of public social service. What I valued the most was Fran’s caring, thoughtful but honest assessments and evaluations of a situation. It challenged and delighted me when I could successfully anticipate all of her questions about a situation and have ready — all of the answers!

Fran treasured her family and friends with tender and loving care, helping us all to grow as better persons. She valued the learning experience, but it was her sense of humor that always made me smile and believe in tomorrow!

Fran Reynolds, with her trademark laugh.

Sue Pfister, Director of the Westport Senior Center, says that Fran was “forever giving of her time, spirit, self and soul to make sure everyone was taken care of, and their needs were being met. Her demeanor was always calm, slow but deliberate, effective and efficient. Her smile was contagious, right up to the end.

“She went peacefully, as she so well deserved. As a second mom to me, she will continue to live out all that she taught me, for I know she is watching over every step I take!”

Barbara Butler, former director of Westport Human Services and long-time friend, highlighted Fran’s tremendous respect for each individual and their right to make their own choices however much we might disagree.

“Fran instilled in all of us a respect and admiration for a person’s self- determination, including their feistiness. She was innovative, especially with the tax relief program. And how she could talk to a client long enough to convince them that a course of action they had initially opposed was actually their idea. Fran was brilliant!”

Fran Reynolds (2nd from left) with colleagues Terry Giegengack, Sue Pfister and Barbara Butler.

David Kennedy, former director of Westport Human Services and current COO, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, adds,  “Fran was one of the most thought-filled leaders I have ever known. Every decision she made was rooted in values that always put others first — and herself after everyone else — and always with her special smile. Fran Reynolds was a true servant leader who touched my life — and thousands of others’ — deeply.

“Have you ever seen the plaque, ‘Faith-Family-Friends’ that sits in many homes? That was Fran. Her faith guided her in all she did and was the bedrock of her life.

“Family? The more the merrier and the more love she gave each and everyone.

“Friends? If you knew her, you were a friend for life. Neighbor, college classmate, client, volunteer, Compo Beach acquaintance, co-worker, and on and on. Everyone was welcomed into her arms and always treasured for who they were not for who they knew.”

May God bless you and keep you. Rest in peace, dear Fran. Love, Terry Giegengack

Replacing The Irreplaceable Terry Giegengack

Normally, when a Westport town department — say, Human Services — replaces an employee who’s leaving — say, Terry Giegengack — the process is simple.

The director posts the position. She includes the job description. Candidates apply, and the best person is chosen.

Replacing Terry will be a bit tougher than that.

In 8 years as assistant director, she’s done so much — and added so many responsibilities, most on her own initiative — that director Barbara Butler first must review and revise the job description.

That’s the easy part. Replacing Terry — who leaves Thursday, to become Fairfield’s director of social services — will be far more difficult.

Terry Giegengack at work...

Terry Giegengack at work…

She’s been a mainstay of Westport’s Human Services Department for 23 years. Actually longer, if you count the years before her maternity leave.

Terry handles client services. She oversees all social workers, and client programs. Many of those programs she developed herself, or brought to Westport.

Take tax preparation assistance for low- and moderate-income people. Working with AARP, Terry gets over $200,000 a year in refunds. That’s money Westporters are entitled to — and need — but would otherwise not receive.

Or Jump Start. An education program for lower-income clients (though open to all), it helps parents manage finances, children, households and more.

Terry brought the Career Coach — a bus with nearly a dozen workstations, where unemployed or underemployed people can work with individual “coaches” to learn Excel, resume-writing and other job skills — to Westport every month.

Recently, she wrote a $150,000 grant for Child First, an early intervention/ school readiness program.

Terry also excels at one-on-one problem-solving.

...and working with a client.

…and working with a client.

“There’s no one better at casework,” praises Barbara, her boss. “She is so wonderful at counseling individuals.

“She meets people where they are, and helps them move on to independence and self-sufficiency, so they don’t need us.”

Terry tackles the most difficult cases. They may be multi-generational, with complicated issues involving childcare, eldercare and financial problems. She solves them all, with creativity and compassion.

Terry supervises 5 case workers. She also deals with youth workers in areas like bullying and eating disorders, and coordinates programs and projects with other town departments.

Oh, yeah. She’s the municipal agent for people with disabilities, too.

Finding someone to do all that — and do it with Terry’s quiet competence and passion — is Barbara Butler’s big task.

“She’s a unique combination of talents and skills,” Barbara says. “She’s an incredible worker, with high energy. On top of all that, she is a lovely person.

“Terry will not be easy to replace.”