Mattie Payne is Manager of the Senior Companion Program at the Social Development Commission (SDC), demonstrates commitment with her sheer staying power and is a leader among her peers and the senior volunteers she supervises. On the job far beyond standard retirement years, she shows no signs of stopping. One of her granddaughters asked, “Are you ever going to retire or are you going to work forever?” To such inquiries, Mattie simply laughs and responds, “I love my job and I am grateful for my health that allows me to provide this service to others.” Mattie’s supervision of this program fosters awareness of the various services available to seniors. With up to 74 senior volunteers, she makes a difference in the lives of often homebound individuals that her program’s volunteers are matched with.
Born in Ardmore, OK, education always mattered as Mattie consistently excelled as an honor student. Completing high school in 1955, she entered Philander Smith College in Little Rock, where her brother attended. She left Arkansas and moved to Milwaukee to be a caregiver for her sister. Wanting to continue her education, she entered Milwaukee Area Technical College to study data entry. Eventually after obtaining a job, working for ten years as a data entry lead clerk for J. C. Penney, she entered the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and graduated in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in education.
Mattie began her social service career with the Opportunity Industrialization Center (OIC), instructing students of all ages in data entry from 1980 to 1982. From 1985 to 1991, her first job with seniors began as a counselor for the Milwaukee Urban League’s Seniors in Community Service Program. In 1986, she became a monitor for SDC’s food program, which segued into her present position, Manager for the Senior Companion Program in 1991. She additionally manages the Benefits Enrollment Center established to enhance the Senior Companion Program. Through this center, qualified seniors receive benefits such as the Medicare Savings Program, Medicare Part D for medications, and the Foodshare program.
Attributable to her motivational training skills and her program’s dedicated staff, the award-winning senior companion program garners recognition from various elected public officials. Plaques, tophies and proclamations displayed on Mattie’s walls and shelves include the 2004 Governors Community Service Effective Practice Award, the 2006 Outstanding Program Award (presented by the Milwaukee Aging Consortium), the SDC Board of Commissioners Chairperson’s Award of Excellence for 2012 and proclamations from the offices of Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Herb Kohl, Governor Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett.
Mattie also volunteers in several capacities within the Milwaukee County Department on Aging. She is now in the last year of her second three-year term serving as a commissioner on the Milwaukee County Commission on Aging, where she has held the offices of both vice president and secretary. She attends Grace Fellowship Church, under the pastoral leadership of Dr. Andrew Calhoun and Brenda Calhoun. Mattie also serves as church treasurer on the Board of Directors. In 2013 the church presented her with the “Service Excellence Award” in appreciation of her outstanding service and leadership.
Mattie married twice and both spouses passed. She has two sons, 5 grandsons, five granddaughters, and three great-grandchildren.