Meet Barbara Foster, Director of Human Resources

Picture It. Boonsboro 2022. You are in the market for a new job because your current position just isn’t quite working out. You pound the pavement, make the phone calls, and scour the job boards. Finally, you get a hit. Fahrney Keedy Home & Village wants to meet with you about an open position. You pass the phone screening with flying colors. Then they tell you it’s on to the actual in-person interview. They give you directions on where to go and tell you to be sure that you ask for the Director of Human Resources. The whole time you are waiting in the lobby to be seen, you wonder to yourself “What does the Director of Human Resources actually do?”.

There’s a lot that goes into being a model employee. There’s a code of conduct and behavior set by a supervisor. There are certain job requirements that need to be met. There are expectations of how a person will treat their fellow coworkers. But everyone is human. Which means that everyone makes mistakes. And not everyone gets along. When two coworkers cannot get along, to the point that it creates a toxic work environment, the supervisor may be forced to send both employees to the Human Resources office. Human Resources is basically an adult version of the principal’s office. The HR Director will meet with the employee or employees who are having the issue, try to reach a conclusion, and put a plan in place that will be followed going forward. (Think about when you would fight with your brother and sister and mom or dad had to get involved. Like that but less scary, hopefully.)

Human Resources isn’t all bad things however. There are a lot of fun things too, like approval for Paid Time Off for vacations or personal days. Employee engagement events to help boost morale or allow employees to get to know each other. Coordination of benefits so staff can have insurance on the days they really need it. New Hire Orientation where future employees come to learn all about how the organization runs and where things are in the facility. Also, someone has to place the order for festive T-shirts so that staff can be stylish for each appropriate holiday. Remember that interview you had? Yup, that’s Human Resources too. With so much going on in one department, it takes a very strong individual to be the leader and keep all the employees in line. And if you’re lucky, that person might even have ties to a very unique piece of history.

Each week, we will be highlighting a member of the Fahrney Keedy Family to learn a little bit more about their life and career. They will be offering a unique perspective on their role as well as advice for those considering a career in senior living.

This week, we get a snapshot into the life and career of Barbara Foster, Director of Human Resources:

Where did you go to school? What was your major? “I attended Hagerstown Community College and then Penn State University. I majored in Business Administration.”

When did you know you wanted to work in Human Resources? What drew you to your current position? “I knew I wanted to work in Human Resources with my first job after college. It was with a manufacturing company and I was hired as a “Personnel Assistant”. Now, I really have dated myself! I did a little bit of everything from filing and payroll to hiring, employee relations, and anti-union campaigns.”

What brought you to Fahrney Keedy? “I was working for a company in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania that involved traveling throughout the United States three out of four weeks every month. I oversaw the Human Resources functions in twenty-two long term acute care hospitals and loved what I did. However, after almost ten years, I was tired of travelling. Steve Coetzee, our CEO, was the Administrator at ManorCare in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and he hired me to be the HR Director years before. We worked together for five years and stayed in touch after that. When he mentioned that he was recruiting for an HR Director for Fahrney Keedy, I was intrigued. I enjoy working in long-term care and I had the utmost respect for Steve as a leader and a visionary. I guess you could say the rest is history.”

In honor of #tbt, we want to throw it back to your first day at Fahrney Keedy. What do you remember? “I remember how friendly everyone was and what a warm welcome the new hires received from the various department directors. i also remember Martha Wolfe conducting New Employee Orientation in what is now the Activities Department and we had macaroni & cheese from the Dietary department for lunch. It was not very tasty.”

What does a day in the life look like for you? What are your duties and responsibilities? “My day usually starts by reviewing my calendar for scheduled meetings and appointments and then responding to voice mail messages and e-mails that came in overnight. These continue throughout every day. There are meetings, phone calls, policy clarifications, employees stopping in to discuss policies, seek clarification on benefits, request FMLA, report work-related injuries, or just say hi and get a piece of candy from the bowl on my table. Directors and supervisors will also call and stop in to review employee attendance records, performance and behavior scenarios, performance evaluation ratings, etc. In addition, I am usually working on HR projects, analyses, and reports throughout every day.”

Do you have a favorite memory from your time spent working here that you would be willing to share? “My favorite memory from my time working here is when my 92 year old mother, Edna Happel, was a resident with us. It was comforting to know she was close during the day and that she was content being at Fahrney-Keedy. I loved being able to stop in and say hi during the day and to watch her enjoy the activities and people around her.”

This pandemic has been hard for everyone but especially for those working in healthcare. How did you personally get through it? “I am not a worrier, so my philosophy was to take it one day at a time. My co-workers called me a rebel because I was not a fan of the vaccines and masks. However, I got the shots and wear a mask when I leave my office, I just grumble about it.”

Oscar Wilde once said “with age comes wisdom”. What advice would you give to your younger self? “My advice to my younger self would be to go out on a limb once in a while for that is where the fruit is. Looking back at my younger self, I would say that I should have had the sense of adventure and courage to travel to unknown places, experience diverse cultures, and choose the road less traveled.”

What advice would you give to someone interested in working in a retirement community? “I would advise them to tour the entire community, talk to residents and staff while observing the atmosphere and interactions. Ask questions such as what they like best, least, why they joined the community, and why they stay.”

And, last question, why should someone choose to join the Fahrney Keedy team? “My mom was a resident here three years ago, and later, I spent 9 days here for rehab. I cannot say enough good things about the quality of care, the positive environment, and the cleanliness of our facility, it almost sparkles! Staff were warm and friendly and genuinely seemed to love what they were doing. I sing Fahrney Keedy’s praises wherever I go.”

Five Second Pose!

We asked Barbara five rapid fire questions to get to know her a little better:

Favorite Color: Pink

Favorite Movie: Miracle on 34th Street

Favorite Disney Character: Winnie The Pooh

Favorite Superhero: Wonder Woman

Favorite Actor, Age 65 & Over: Richard Gere

1 Fun Fact (Barbara cheated on this one!):

  • -Barbara was such a tomboy growing up and loved to climb trees, hike in the mountains, and play in the streams. Now she would prefer a day at the spa!
  • Twins run in Barbara’s family. Her great grandmother, sister, and Barbara herself all gave birth to twins. Who will be next?
  • Barbara’s great uncle Fred Happel, for whom her father was named, designed the original Social Security card.

Thank you so much to Barbara Foster for sharing! Stay tuned next week when we add another photo to our Family Album!