Staff Spotlight: Karen Barbee 03/03/2016

Staff Spotlight: Karen Barbee

1. Tell me about yourself. I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in Biology. I completed my Peace Corps service immediately after college, working as a health education specialist in Mali, West Africa. Returning from Africa, I worked for a plasma collection company before moving to Pensacola and becoming the Operations Director for Chain Reaction, a teen volunteer center. My position at COA is a culmination of these experiences, combining experience in providing health-related services, overseeing program operations, managing staff, and learning about the non-profit industry.


2. What you do here each day? Every day is different, that is for sure! I am responsible for overseeing the Community Services Department, which entails Meals on Wheels, the Senior Dining Site program, transportation, and caregiver support groups for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The Community Services Department has a staff of over 30 in order to provide these services, and most of my job is making sure we are fully staffed and those staff members have the resources and support they need in order to do the great work that they do.


3. What part of your experience as the Community Services Director do you find the most rewarding? The most challenging? One of the most rewarding aspects of working in Community Services is knowing the sheer quantity and consistency in which we serve seniors. On a daily basis, we serve hundreds of seniors with continual programs, versus sporadic help here and there. Anyone who goes on a Meals on Wheels route or visits one of our dining site locations can see how much help we provide, and the appreciation of those who receive those meals and services. The most challenging thing, which I think most non-profit professionals encounter, is that you simply cannot ever do as much as you would like to. There is always more you can do, more people who need help, and it is a challenge recognizing the limits of your resources and appreciating what you can do with what you have.


4. What inspires/motivates you to continue to do what you do here? The same thing that is most rewarding about the job%u2014the impact!


5. What is your most significant accomplishment to date as the Community Services Director? Two-thirds of the Community Services staff are Senior Dining Site managers, and I spent a great deal of time last year creating best practices for the 18 senior dining sites. I tied this into performance evaluations, so we were able to clarify expectations and unify our procedures throughout both counties. Several sites have had some major gains this year, and it has been rewarding being able to see the growth! Although we have made many operational adjustments throughout this year, I think that this one was the most significant in terms of measuring progress.

We are grateful for all you do for the seniors in our community and the Council on Aging of West Florida!

Thank you Karen!

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