Committee Work; Committee Play

By Resident Susan Richardson —

At Kendal, the list of committees available for residents to join is long and varied, and residents can find a wide range of ways to become involved in the life of the community. There are service committees, social committees, seasonal and ad hoc groups. They all provide a way for people to meet and form relationships with their neighbors while pursuing an interest in common or helping to provide a service.

I have happily found myself serving on two committees whose names begin with “D”: the Dining Committee and the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. (This is not to say that I have covered all of the “D”-committees at Kendal, for there also exists a Decorating Committee and a Dominoes group. Nor do I limit myself to the “Ds,” since I also attend the Kendal Book Group and have served on the Ad Hoc Pub Committee.)

However, these two “D”-committees share a feature in common besides their initial letter that is of particular attraction to me even beyond the valuable purposes they each serve. Both the Dining and the Diversity committees are made up of staff and administrators as well as of residents. Thus, working with these groups gives me the opportunity to work with people from these other areas of our community, to get to know them better. and to get a glimpse of their work and roles at Kendal.

The Dining Committee

For most, and perhaps for all, of Kendal’s residents, food is a central—and critical—topic of attention. We want meals that are well-planned, prepared perfectly and presented attractively—and at the right temperatures! We would like variety and interesting dishes; we would also like comfort food. The staff is also charged with providing a healthy diet and being attentive to those with allergies or particular dietary needs.

Of course, not all people agree on taste. One person’s comfort food is not the next person’s nostalgic preference. The nicely spiced chili that brings raves from one resident may be much too hot for the next. Thus, with all of these factors involved in meal preparation, the task for Kendal’s dining manager Melissa Peters and executive chef Robert Olinger requires a delicate balancing act.

The Dining Committee, made up of Melissa, Robert other staff persons, and several residents enables a formalized communication between the providers and the consumers of Kendal meals. At every meal, on every table, there are comment sheets and pencils for people to register their likes, dislikes and suggestions, and the dining personnel urge residents to fill them out. These sheets are compiled and tabulated each month by Melissa to determine the number of comment sheets returned, the percentages of positive and negative comments, and any suggestions made for changes or additions.

The committee meets monthly to examine the tabulations report, which also includes the responses that Melissa has made to any negative comments. Resident members of the committee add their observations, as well, in order to give helpful feedback about which new dishes were popular, which were not, which food people wanted repeated, which items were missing from the menu—and missed—and any other information they have gleaned on residents’ feelings about their dining experiences.

The dining staff pay close attention to the comment sheets, as well as the committee discussions, and they do their best to meet requests and to explain the reasons if they cannot fulfill a particular request. In this way, the committee helps the providers to understand what the residents like and do not like, and it helps to convey to residents some of the constraints placed on the choices or preparation of their meals. It also gives residents a regular channel by which to participate in the planning of their meals.

In general, Kendal residents are enthusiastic and grateful for the excellent dining service they receive. During the three years that I have served on the Dining Committee, positive comments have always far outnumbered the negative. Indeed, the latest figures, for the month of September, 2017, show 71 positive comments about the food during the month, to six negative, with an additional six comments carrying suggestions. My conclusion and my own experience is that we are exceedingly lucky diners at Kendal.

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee

The central Kendal organization mandates that there be a plan in place to foster diversity and inclusion at each of the individual Kendal communities. In March 2008, after Kendal at Granville opened, a Diversity & Inclusion Committee was established with the following Mission Statement:

“To assist in building community that celebrates and draws from the backgrounds, and experiences of all Kendal residents and staff. We will work together to invite a diverse population and encourage inclusiveness among all community members.”

While Kendal places great value on creating a community of persons of all kinds, the lack of diversity in the demographic area from which Kendal at Granville draws has restricted our realization of this goal in terms of residents and staff. However, the committee is active in promoting diversity through programing and in helping to create a welcoming and inclusive environment on the campus. The committee is chaired by an administrator (currently Beth Waite, Kendal’s Human Resources Manager), and is made up of residents and staff from all areas of the campus—dining, housekeeping, maintenance, the health center. It is truly a pan-community effort.

Activities sponsored by the committee include speakers, book readings, holiday celebrations, field trips and food sharing. We have invited professors from Denison University, such as Catalina Hunt to speak on Islam, John Cort on India and Xinda Liam on China. We have had Angela Plummer of CRIS (Community Refugees and Immigrants Services) from Columbus report on her agency and its efforts for Ohio refugees. St. Patrick’s Day, San Gennaro, and Cinco de Mayo have been occasions for celebrating other national cultures with games and food. Each year, the committee sponsors a common book for the community to read that touches on problems of equitable inclusion. And in recent years we have had spirited discussions about My Two Moms by Zach Walls, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, and most recently, the searing book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Diversity of age is recognized also, and we have repeatedly invited Stafford Barnes and his African dance students at Denison to perform for the always enthusiastic Kendal audience. With the help of Gill Miller, Chair of the Dance Department, the committee arranged for a group of students to perform and teach residents simple line dances.

Diversity of faith is celebrated. At holiday time, added to Kendal’s Christmas activities and decorations, the rituals of the eight days of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, are explained and demonstrated, and the colors of Kwanza, honoring the African heritage in African-American culture are displayed. The committee’s most recent event is a field trip to Denison’s Homestead for a tour of the alternate philosophic and pragmatic living experience the Homestead offers to Denison students.

In all, the energy and creativity involved in the work of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee tries to provide dynamic, sometimes provocative and always enjoyable programs for the Kendal community. Certainly, the committee members relish their work in supporting the committee’s mission.