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The Welcome and Orientation Team An Interview with Kathy Barrows


 “Andy was the original welcome team.” Kathy Barrows fondly remembers being  "officially welcomed" by Executive Director Andy Gaines, when she joined Ashby Village in 2012.  “He had a big smile and an open laptop.”


Today, a team of five enthusiastic member volunteers—Audre Newman, Liz Raymer, Barbi Jo Stim, Mairin Malarka-Meyer, and Kathy Barrows--is dedicated to the significant role of reaching out to new members to help them find a meaningful place in the Ashby Village community.  “I believe in the importance of community.”  Especially as we age and our life circumstances change, we need to keep up old friendships and make new ones with people who share common interests. The Welcome Committee represents the first step of engagement with new members.  Our role is to answer questions andgo over the basics in the personalized welcome packet, things like  how to make a service request, find out about activities, use the website and  connect with neighborhood groups. And, of course, we encourage them to become volunteers themselves (as half our members are also volunteers).   Afterwards we make follow-up calls to make sure new members are getting their needs met.

Barrows' primary mission is to build community by helping new members connect and participate.  “I joined this team because I wanted to get out and meet the members one-on-one.  I love hearing people’s stories about their fascinating lives.  There is always some way to link people's skills and interests  to what is going on in Ashby Village, even if the member does not get out much.   People are amazingly generous.  Everyone brings to the Village what they can, and I always feel like I  receive more from the new members than I bring.”


A retired freelance writer, Barrows still does writing related to elders, what she calls  “life story work.” She volunteers for the San Francisco non-profit Art with Elders, interviewing and writing short  biographies of elder artists chosen for an annual art exhibit.  “I try to find the soul of the artist and put it into a few words.” 


Barrows pursues a wide range of interests, from reading and travel to fly-fishing.  Describing the pleasures of singing in two choral groups--the Berkeley Community Chorus (BCCO) and the Oakland Interfaith Community Choir,  she explains, “For me, breathing and singing together is another form of community.”