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Barbara Thomas



Barbara Thomas joined Kendal at Oberlin “before dirt,” on March 2, 1992. She and Marcia Heckert were the only Kendal at Oberlin staff, with their office on the second floor of a bank building on Main Street. Barbara is known for her boundless energy, hard work (often into the wee hours), and great enthusiasm. She makes herself available for everyone – residents, staff, and community members alike. She has seen the staff grow and stretch both professionally and in their private lives as they have married and had children who are now entering adulthood. Twelve colleagues have been with her for twenty years, which gives Kendal great stability in operations.


Kendal’s annual operating budgets have grown from $9 million to today's $15 million. She recalls that back in 1995, $2,000 was approved, along with contributions from board members, for activities to serve the Oberlin community. Barbara was surprised that in the 1990s we were one of the few CCRCs nationally to have resident board members and a resident council president attending board meetings. That’s still the case, she notes.


Barbara's active participation in the extended Oberlin community and Kendal system set a great example for us all. She was on the board and served as an officer of LeadingAge Ohio and the national LeadingAge organization. She is active with the Oberlin Rotary, and worked with Junior Achievement at Prospect School for ten years. And Kendal at Oberlin has led the way in many areas within The Kendal Corporation, including best practices cited by CARF-CCRC accreditors and the development of Kendal at Home and Senior Independence under the umbrella of Kendal Northern Ohio. It was great when she had to return early from a national CCRC conference because Kendal at Oberlin was getting national TV coverage!


It was hard for Barbara to identify one proudest moment. While the depth of community here is overwhelming, Kendal’s impact now extends far afield, as in the Samsung development in Noble County in Korea and the recent visitors from Japan, who see us as a model. She is proud of our recognition by Readers Digest and Newsweek as a top CCRC and best Intergenerational program and community, as well as the awards for Publicity Plugs, the Volunteer Clearing House, and other service initiatives. And the community’s response to emergencies is remarkable.


Barbara and her husband Bill have raised three wonderful daughters. Megan, the oldest, serves as administrator for St. Paul's, a nonprofit senior living community in California. Heather is in Denver, using her psychology degree to help children with autism learn new communication and coping skills. And Kelly, the youngest, is getting her start in business as an event planner for Colorado Thought Leaders. It is so wonderful that they are all in human services.


Looking forward, she has confidence that Kendal at Oberlin will continue to be a leader and model of collaboration – engaging residents, staff, and board to transform the experience of aging. And sometimes she is even able to squeeze some time for herself on the tennis courts. You go, Barbara! We only wish we could clone you.


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