Caroline Kenny-Burchfield Interview:
This is file #32, cycle 3. Today’s date is April 18, 2018. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Caroline Kenny-Burchfield. She is going to talk about entering Hotchkiss as a young lady, EXTRAS, the community playground, SOAR, her work at Noble Horizons, the Jane Lloyd Fund, and Ambulance Board. The Strategic Planning for the renovation of the Scoville Memorial Library 2013-2016, Girl Scouts, Salisbury Forum and anything else she wants to talk about. But first we will start with…
JM:What is your name?
JM:You entered Hotchkiss with the first class of girls in 1974.
CB:In the fall of 1974.
JM:What was it like?
CB:It was an adventure. I think that is why many of us decided to enroll because it meant that we would be part of history. There was no script. We would help write that script.
JM:Did you come up against some discrimination from the boys?
CB:No from the boys, but the faculty. With the enhance focus on male/female relationships in the work place and society in general, we are all (when I say us I am talking about women who went to school in the 1970s and 1980s) aghast at what we put up with unknowingly, unwittingly. I am not sure I can blame the male members of our community although…See File #33 George Anastatio, Tape 144A Arthur Eddy, both faculty members at the time)
JM:They had to be retrained.
CB:At some level I think yes there was culpability, but in any event it was a very different world. We have come a long way, but there is a long way to go.
JM:What was the ethnic population of the student body? Was it Asian, Caucasians, or Europeans?
CB:It was a pretty homogenous population, but the school had made a very concerted effort to diversify socio-economically and racially. We certainly felt that. I was thrilled for it. Many of us came from very cloistered backgrounds where we had never encountered people much different from ourselves. This was a wonderful opportunity. I remember specifically seeking out people who were different from me. I had never had that opportunity before. That was part of the experience.
JM:That is how you teach tolerance.
JM:Did you run the 20th reunion at Hotchkiss?
CB:I was involved with a number of different reunions as either Chair or fund raiser or social chair. I had so many positions, I can’t remember specifically. I did play a major role in all of the reunions except for the last one. I was asked to play a role, but I really had too much on my plate at the time. I was sorry to decline but it was the right thing to do. They deserved somebody who could make that kind of commitment that I was not able to do.
JM;Sticking with Hotchkiss, they have a daycare center. When did that start?
CB:That started about a year before my oldest child was born, probably about 1988 or 1989. When I first joined the community there was no daycare at all. Then they cobbled together a room in the athletic building where parent could drop off children. There was a make shift day care. It was really Kara Noyes who was in charge with the support of Cynthia White who was the wife of the Head of School at the time. She had to create bond funding to provide daycare at Hotchkiss. That was transformative. The Trustees voted to fund it. The daycare center was built and was immediately full. I have four children and with the fourth child, I opted to stay home. She had a number of very specific health issues and I just decided that I needed to be home. My oldest daughter said to me, “Mom that is so unfair. Daycare has my best memories.” My oldest child was castigating me for staying home with my daughter.
JM:The Hotchkiss students work with the EATRAs program at Salisbury Central? (See File # 61 Lou Bucceri)
CB:They do. They do a lot of things that the EXTRAs kids want them to do, like on the playground, pushing them on the swings, playing basketball, building Legos. What we have begun to do was to try to bring some of our own ideas. One of our students created “Camp Week” for instance. Every day she would bring a different activity for a five day sequence whether it was making friendship bracelets, or making slime.
JM:That must have gone over well!
CB:Yes, tie dye all sorts of things you can really get dirty in. It was a huge success. Sometimes we are not able to go and the students at EXTRAs are disappointed and that makes me sad. It also means that we have had some impact. Our Hotchkiss love their time with the grade schools and to escape the pressures of being an adolescent at Hotchkiss and being a kid again.
JM:Are you on the board of EXTRAs?
CB:No, somebody did approach me several years ago, but again my plate was full. It is best to give these organizations an opportunity to find somebody who can really give them the time they deserve. EXTRAs deserve the very best. I am awed by the commitment of the staff and the experiences that the children get. We are so fortunate in our community that we have EXTRAs.
JM: Have you had the Hotchkiss students involved with SWSA?3.
CB:I tried to get the kids as part of their community service at Hotchkiss to volunteer at SWSA. Some of the kids had never heard of a ski jump before. It was fascinating for them. But trying to get a specific time, when we could show up and a specific task to do, it was impossible. They would say. “Well yeah you just come and show up. You just do whatever. “ It is wonderful but that does not work so well for our regimented community of students. We didn’t get to volunteer for SWSA. The volunteers there have the most extraordinary devotion to what they do.
JM:You also worked on the community playground at Salisbury Central.
CB:It was about 2003. I am trying to remember when you youngest was not in school yet so I think it was about that time. The old playground was identified as hazardous with arsenic in the pressure treated wood. We knew we had to make a change. It was a shame because the playground was only about 10 years old. Previously there had been an outstanding effort to raise funds. We were concerned for the safely of our children.
JM:Where is it located?
CB:It is called the community playground and li located at Salisbury Central behind the Upper Building. It is open for everybody.
JM:Do you have monitors at the playground?
CB:No it was not our idea to make it a community playground. It was literally the selectmen’s office. I met with Curtis (See file # 37, Curtis Rand) on several occasions and then with the Board of Ed. There is no other playground in town. At the time there was a very small primitive jungle gyms at the Grove, but other than that there was nothing. There was not funding in the town budget to build a playground elsewhere. We were told that this was going to be a community playground in addition to the school playground. Parents can bring their children when school is not in session and they do. It is a wonderful play scape.
JM:What do you have on the ground underneath the equipment?
CB:Wood chips, we put down wood chips.
JM:SOAR- we do a lot with children in this town fortunately. You were in the beginning. Can you give me a little background on that? (See file # 35, cycle 2, Amy Rasner Clulow)
CB:Zenas Block is the genius of this. He was an extraordinary man who envisioned a program at school that would spark the genius residing in every child, whether or not that genius was sparked at school. He knew that every child had something inside them that needed to be brought out. He wanted to create a program that would do that. He worked very closely with teachers, and the principal Paul Sales to form the after school enrichment program. He was very clear that this was to be enrichment not to be remedial. There were tax dollars available to take care of those who needed additional
support. It was never to rely upon any tax dollar; it was privately funded. He felt that education in this community was a reflection of the quality of the community. The commitment to the children spoke about the kind of community one lived in. He read that right because this community got behind his idea. It also began to develop at a time when families were juggling two careers. With school letting out at 3:00, what do you do until 5 when work is over?
JM:Who was the principal at that time, do you remember?
CB:I think it was Paul Sales who worked closely with Zenas. It was shortly after Zenas died (Nov. 2008) that his wife Janet Block formalized the board and made sure that SOAR would be up and running in perpetuity. He had made her promise that she would do that.
JM:The board wasn’t developed until after 2008?
CB:It took probably a couple of years to get the board fully operational and functioning. We always had a fund at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. (See tape # 167A, Alice Yoakum) It was well housed. He didn’t have formal leadership and he wanted to be sure it had that going forward.
JM:How did it get the name SOAR?
CB:Again using the ideas that Zenas promulgated when he conceived of this program, it was decided that the operating name would be Salisbury Central School Educational & Enrichment Fund was not what we really needed. There was a contest at school and families and student were invited to submit their ideas for a new name which would keep in mind the vision of the program. Whoever won the contest would be given a pool party at Hotchkiss. They could invite anybody they wanted and we would provide the lifeguard and the pool. We received many wonderful and very creative and charming and humorous names from all ages. It was fantastic. SOAR was picked out of the bunch. It stands for Seek, Originate, Aim and Reach. It was an early committee as there was no board at that time which included Karen Lindeen, Anne Ohlinger, who was the first director of SOAR, Ward Belcher was also very involved with the founding of SOAR and one or two others. They chose the name, as all the entries were anonymous.
JM:When you were developing the board, did you pick from a variety of people that had different skill sets?
CB:Definitely Zenas felt very strongly about that. Even after he was gone he always envisioned SOAR as being part of the community and utilizing the many talented people in the town. We were very careful to choose people who had no children in the school or who had never had children, but had talent that could help us encourage others to share their talents for the school.
JM:Did you include any teachers?
CB:We always have a teacher on the board.
JM:You have had several Program Directors. You said that Anne Ohlinger was the first one.
CB:Yes Anne was first, Jennifer Law, Lynn Meehan, Nancy Hege Martin, Weezie Fallon (See file #40, cycle 2, Louise Fallon) and now Linda Sloane,
JM:Are you still on the board?
CB:I am not now.
JM:What were the term limits for the board? Or was it on going?
CB:Well we were created that. We used to meet at Noble Horizons in the conference room. I remember the meeting at which we voted on the term limits. There was a bunch of discussion and we finally agreed on 3years with two three year terms possible. I was involved for much longer that that but there were no by laws. Until we created the by- laws I was still there with a few others, just hanging around.
Originally there was just a Program Committee who set up the program. They recommended to the Directors through the monthly meetings we had what we felt were good programs to offer. We would try to connect with people in the community and our network who would run these programs. Several years later with Janet’s assistance, we created a board. It was a Program committee and then the board.
JM:It coast to participate in the program, doesn’t it?
CB:Almost nothing Zenas wanted to have a program that was affordable to every family in the community. When the programs first began they were $10 for 6 weeks of dance classes, if that was too much, you could just apply for a scholarship. You were immediately awarded one. There was no application. I think the classes now are $25. If there is a materials fee, it is prorated and very low. If you are doing a pottery class, you have to buy clay and glazes. Again if you need financial assistance, no questions asked.
JM:Is it funded by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation?
CB:It is funded by private donations. The program has spun off a little bit from BTCF. The endowment is there, but the operating budget is not.
JM:Girl Scouts, you worked with them in about 1995?
CB:Yes, my oldest daughter started with the Daisies. When you are in Kindergarten you are a daisy. She was 5 at the time.
JM:When you go from a Daisy do you become a Brownie. A brownie is second grade.
CB:No Brownies are now first grade. You are only a Daisy for a year. That may all change, but that was the way it used to be.
JM:I am assuming you got into Girls Scouts because of your daughter.
CB:Yes I became a Girl Scout leader, but I had been a Girl Scout and had loved the experience. It was one of the best decisions that I ever made to be a leader. It allowed me to not only get to know all of her friends and children who were not necessarily her friends, but all of their parents as well. When you live at Hotchkiss you can be very cloistered. We have everything we need right there. You can lull yourself into thinking that everything you need is there. You fitness is there, your books are there, you don’t have to go outside, perhaps gas for your car, but if you don’t go anywhere, you’re OK. It was a fantastic experience. It was a real privilege to be able to lead that troop for so many years, and sell all those cookies. We did service projects; I loved coming up with different ways to connect with others. I remember doing a planning project for the Salisbury Historical Association when they had the Holley-Williams House. We worked for the Salisbury ambulance. Once we had Jackie Rice (See file #31 Jackie Rice) about CPR. It was a wonderful experience. I still see those girls now and I love them as much now as I did them.
JM:We’ll now go on to your day job at Noble Horizons. What do you do?
CB:My title is director of Community Relations. About a year and one half ago I was also asked to do some fund raising so I have done that as well, but that is a small part of my job.
JM;When did you join Noble?
CB:When my youngest child started kindergarten in 2004. She went off to kindergarten. On her first day of kindergarten, I went off to my first day at Noble Horizons. I worked until 1:00 PM because at that time kindergarten went until 12:30 and by the time she got off the bus, it was 1. I had to be home by 1 to get her off the bus. She had had a very serious illness as a child so I wanted to be there.
JM:What do you do? With your title I would assume that it involved public Relations.
CB:I think it was originally Public Relations, but we ended up doing a lot more community relations, and community events. My job is to bring people from the community into Noble Horizons and to bring people from Noble into the community so there is no feeling that when you move to Noble Horizons, you are leaving the community. You are not. We are mixing the two all the time. That has been a part of the whole Noble Horizons founding.
JM:When we talked before, and you have been here for a while, I asked you what has changed and you said rather ask me what has NOT changed. What hasn’t changed?
CB:We give the very best care to every single resident in this community. There is not a day that I am not awed by the level of kindness, compassion, and respect. It brings me to my knees sometimes.
Kindness is the currency. We just did an event to celebrate Eileen Milligan who retired after 43 years (See tape #147A, Eileen Mulligan). The son of a resident who had been at other facilities throughout Connecticut said, “I am actually not a very nice person. But when I come to Noble Horizons, I am a nicer person. I can’t help but be a kind person here because everybody around me is that way and you get caught up in it.” I just loved that and that is a great remark.
JM:I can subscribe to that because I recouped here for one month> It was an absolutely wonderful experience. My husband came here for one week to give me some R&R. He had such a good time he did not want to come home.
CB: We work hard to earn that every day. Work hard maybe the wrong word. No it comes from inside. Health care is stressful; it could be easy to deviate from that kindness, but it is just part and parcel of the people here at Noble.
JM:It was a marvelous experience for both of us.
JM:Jane Lloyd Fund, speaking about health care. How did you get involved with that?
CB:I had just done a fund raising event for with someone from the bank of Habitat for Humanity fund raiser which we held at Noble Horizons. She had gotten involved with the Jane Lloyd fund because the fund began at the Salisbury Bank & Trust. (See file #3, cycle 3, Tanya Tedder). She was an employee of Salisbury Bank. We had just collaborated on a very successful Habitat fund raiser. She asked me if I would be interested in getting involved with the Jane Lloyd Fund. My youngest daughter had been born with a malignant tumor, so we spent several years in the world of cancer. When I was given this opportunity, I could not say no because I had been lucky that my child lived. To this day it means more to me than just about anything I do. We have just come off a busy month. We are busy because community members have come to us and said what can we do to help the Jane Lloyd Fund? We had a dance at the White Hart with Darren Winston and his crew who come every year and have done for three years. We would like to do it for you again. This year the attendance was so large that we are wondering whether we can handle the crowd like that next year. What a great problem that is.
Then we had the Spring Splash a week later at the lake. We had over 100 people running into the lake on a miserably cold wintery day. It was horrible weather. Last weekend we were asked to Salisbury School because they hosted an annual carnival and they directed the proceeds to the Jane Lloyd fund. That is the beauty of being involved with the Jane Lloyd Fund. It is the community members who want to make a difference.
JM:What is the vision because it is different from just medical expenses?
CB:Yes. The vision really reflects the community had for Jane. Jane worked for herself, when she got sick, she could not run her business. Thus she had no income; you can face foreclosure, and the utilities
are shut off, you can’t pay your car bills, and you can’t buy gas for the car to get to your treatments to fight your cancer. The community decided to open a bank account for Jane at Salisbury Bank. After people got paid on Friday or whatever day they got paid, they’d stop by the bank and put in whatever they felt they could afford. Those funds kept Jane in her home with her lights on, her heat on, gas in her car. It was extraordinary, but tragically Jane died. The family was so overcome by the kindness of this community that they and some friends, Tanya being among them, decided to establish the Jane Lloyd Fund to provide that kind of kindness, support and financial support to other cancer patients in our community.
JM:It is still viable.
CB:It is thriving because of the people in this community. There are no paid employees. Everything is done by volunteers.
JM:Are you still on the advisory board?
JM:What do they do? They have a specific job.
CB:We have to fund raise which never ends. As long as there is need, we dream of course of going out of business because there is no need for us. Until that happens we have to raise money. This year we have had a very significant increase in the number of requests. We call that good news/bad news in that we hope that maybe we have had increase because more people are aware that there is some help available. We hope it is not that there are more people who are struggling with cancer. We tell people there are more people with significant needs, people give. It is a fantastic community. We do fund raising and obviously that money goes on to grants. We do not turn people away.
JM:Is there any fund with the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation?
CB:The foundation has been great at identifying donors within their community who are interested in forming organizations like the Jane Lloyd Fund. That has been extremely helpful to us and very inspiring. It keeps us going.
JM:Jane died in September of 2005 and 13 years later the fund is still growing and the community is still giving generously.
CB:They are giving more than ever. It had been so long now that we have to explain who Jane Lloyd was. People no longer know.
JM:You are on the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service board? How many are on the board?
CB:We have about 17. We do not usually go much below that.
JM:When did you join?
CB:2008 or 20099.
JM:The only one that I know is on the boards is Elyse Harney Morris.
CB:Yes, I was on the nominating committee and I suggested that she might want to join.
JM:She was so honored to be asked.
CB:We were so honored to have her. Her dad (John Harney Sr.) was a founding member of the SVAS. The calls came into the White Hart. It just meant so much to us that she was going to join. She is a very busy woman. (See file #18, Tina Chandler)
JM:I was doing an oral history with her and her mother about the White Hart and she was just bubbling over that she had been asked to join the ambulance board. She was so excited about it and so pleased. The community regardless of the need, they step up.
CB:We had a campaign for a new ambulance last year for one quarter of a million dollars, $250,000, for one ambulance. We had planning meetings, and writing case statements, getting material printed, we were really super organized. Literally within about 2 months we had not only raised the money, but we raised far more money than we needed. It is safely tucked away earning interest because before too long we will need more new equipment. Our ambulance is about 15 or 20 years old and some of the safety features are not right so we had to get a more recent one because we were no longer compliant with the state regulations. I am in awe of the amount of training the EMTs have to have. I feel so humbled and impressed by what they know. I look out my window here and many times I see a Salisbury ambulance pull up here at Noble Horizons any time of day or night, they are out there for us. My son had a bad sledding accident. He ended up flying off his tube and smashed on the snowy ice. I got a call and went rushing to the scene; the ambulance was already there. I looked around at the crew working on my son. It was his pen pal form 2nd grade, Dr. Jerad Zelman. It was Jackie Rice who had taught him swimming at the Grove. You can’t imagine the comfort we all took knowing that those people were in charge of my son’s life.
JM:Strategic Planning committee for the Scoville Memorial Library Renovation 2013-2016. How did you get involved with that one?
CB:Claudia asked me. She knew I was very involved with the community and because I live a t Hotchkiss and I work at Noble Horizons, she saw me as somebody who could represent a spectrum of the ages, obviously, and because we had done community events, we had a handle on what the direction they were going. Books were not their primary motivator to get people to use the library, so this was the time to assess what is the library in the year 2016? Where do we see ourselves in 2020 or 2025? It was an extremely interesting process. We were led by strategic planners who do this as a profession. They did a brilliant job. The library is probably stronger that it had been before.
JM:With the comments that I have heard, people who come into the library are impressed with the beauty of it and the number of things that are on offer.
CB:Books are there as well as technology and there is education to provide the facilities so if you do not know and you are afraid to learn or don’t know even how to begin, the staff really are there to get you started. We talked a lot about how to make it easy to use the library. One of the biggest challenges was the fact that the lower level was not connected to the upper level. The fact that they were able to achieve that through their most recent renovation was a tremendous triumph. It took a lot of persistence on the part of the library board. (See File # 20, cycle 3, Noel Sloan, and File # 20, cycle 2, John Hoffman) They were told by many architects that it was impossible with the budget you have.
JM:They did a wonderful job with the “Campaign to connect” for fund raising.
CB:Again from what I understand the money came in very quickly and nobody thought twice about it. It is the library; it is central to our community. We must have a thriving library. What do we need to do to keep it?
JM:Back in the 1990 we had a librarian who did not want the library to be the center of the community and pushed everybody away. When Claudia came in she wanted to reverse this. That is why her office in on the main floor and she works the desk to get to know her patrons. (See file # 27, cycle 2, Claudia Cayne) She wanted it to be a community library and she has done a magnificent job.
CB:Yes, she certainly has.
JM:Other than being on the committee, did you do any fund raising for the library?
CB:I did not. Just for the strategic planning. There was a special committee assembled for that.
JM:How many were on that committee.
CB:I think 8 to 10.
JM:They did have strategic planning informational meeting for the community.
CB:They worked very hard to involve the community along the way. As a resource for the community, what does the community want? Where are the gaps? What do you need?
JM:They put out a survey, didn’t they?
CB:Yes they did.
JM:Salisbury Form, when did you get involved with that? (See file $34, cycle 2, William Littauer)
CB:That was about a year ago.
CB:I was asked. I was very flattered to be asked. I have attended many of those programs. I have always been grateful for the quality of their speakers.
JM:Who asked you?11.
CB:Janette Webber, I got to know her through Noble Horizons as she was head of the Festival of Trees. Then she got involved with the Fall Festival and we ran the chili cook-off for years in our community.
JM:The chili cook-off is connected with?
CB:Noble Horizons sponsored the chili cook-off up until about ten years ago. It was huge and on the town green. I got to know Janette better because of the Fall Festival and what she was doing and the big event that we were doing on the Sunday of that weekend.
JM:Who is President of the Salisbury Forum now?
CB:Donald Ross who owns Holleywood.
JM:How many are on the board?
CB:It is rather small right now and our big challenge is to enlarge it. We are down to about 8. It was just through a series of circumstances: somebody moved away, somebody had to leave the board because of other commitments.
JM:Are there term limits on that board?
CB:Yes there are. I was not involved in the writing of the by-laws, but I know they created themselves out of nothing.
JM:Claudia was one of the founders in that one. People are multifaceted in this community. They all do so many different things and are very quiet and humble about what they do. It is just what I do, it is not an ego trip, it is just what I do. I think it is remarkable. Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked about? You do so many things, I may have missed something.
CB:It is such a privilege to live in this community and be able to do all of these things. There is faith. Friendship, comradery, and we all want to make our community care for each other. We take care of each other. What an honor in this crazy world of ours to provide an oasis of kindness. It is bigger that we are. We are so fortunate to be a part of it. We do everything we can to foster, nurture and preserve it. That is where the privilege comes in: to be able to have a hand in that for future generations. We are just carrying on from what those before us left to us.
JM:Thank you for a wonderful interview.