With an ideal background and a wealth of community connections, Judy Barron is ready to lead Community Dining Room (CDR) as its new executive director.
The Branford resident leaves her 11-year post as North Branford Senior Citizens Program Supervisor on Friday, Dec. 18. She’ll take a short breather before she begins her new job, leading non-profit CDR beginning Jan. 4.
Okay, it’s not really much of a breather. When Judy isn’t involved in her work life, she’s involved in her community. She serves on the board of Branford Girls Softball (as treasurer and lead fundraiser) and will be the Branford Youth Cheerleading president next year (in addition to leading its fundraising, she’s been coaching, too). Judy also clerks for North Branford’s Permanent Project Committee and plans to continue. She also says she wants to continue assisting her adopted community of North Branford by volunteering whenever needed and especially with programs she’s helped get up and running, such as Be a Santa to a Senior. In the meantime, CDR will help her to stay in touch.
“Community Dining Room serves communities from East Haven to Old Saybrook, and North Branford is a part of that,” says Judy, who got to know CDR by assisting North Branford’s Homebound program with client assessments of seniors eligible to receive CDR meal deliveries.
Judy was working as a community experience instructor for SARAH when she got her start working for the Town of North Branford. Judy was first hired as an intern with the town’s Park & Recreation Department. She was still studying for her human services degree (earned from Albertus Magnus in 2005) when she was moved into an interim position as program supervisor at North Branford’s Senior Center. She was so adept at the work that, in 2005, Judy was officially hired as the town’s new senior citizens program supervisor.
While she is going to miss her senior citizen contacts, friends, and co-workers in North Branford, Judy is inspired and humbled to be able to take the next step in a career that has been dedicated to helping others improve their quality of life.
“There are a lot of pieces from my work and my life that I think are going to filter over to CDR very nicely,” says Judy. “There are a lot of things at CDR that tug at my heart, just like they have in North Branford. The work I’m doing is my passion; it’s my love. I’m excited for what I’m going to be able to bring to the table.”
Judy will have some big shoes to fill as she becomes only the second director in the 30-year history of CDR, following the retirement of Pat Kral on Dec. 31. Pat was CDR’s first executive director and was on the job for 25 years. She helped build the agency from serving 15 lunches a day in Branford to a serving 4,500 meals per month to residents ranging from East Haven to Old Saybrook.
Pat feels Judy is the perfect person to take on the executive director role at CDR.
“She knows the community, and she has a lot of energy, and she’ll bring a lot of vitality,” says Pat.
Judy has been working with Kral to prepare for the transition and to get a sense of what it’s like to be “the face” of CDR, says Judy.
“I’m so proud to be able to continue what Pat’s created. She’s a legacy,” says Judy. “I think, like Pat says, it’s about being that face in the community. You have to be a people person and that’s what I am. Being in the community is what I absolutely love to do. I’m really excited to be able to continue to network and bring my resources with me, and to be able to bring my thoughts and ideas for what the needs are, and for expanding programming.”
Through the years, CDR’s menu of offerings has grown to include not only daily hot lunches year-round, it also offers the likes of Tuesday night family dinners, Tuesday night take-out dinners, Saturday breakfasts, homebound meal deliveries, and enrichment programming,
Judy and her husband, John Barron, Jr., are raising their daughters Isabella, 15 and Chelsea, 8, in Branford. The Barron family and its extended friends, teams, and other connections are going to be involved in helping CDR, says Judy. Getting involved can be as simple as joining CDR’s annual Walk-a-Thon each spring or volunteering at the CDR’s kitchen (located in the Patricia C. Andriole Volunteer Services Building in Branford), among other opportunities.
“As a mom, I want my kids out in the community and involved. I want them to learn the values of giving back to your community and how important that is,” says Judy. “It’s going to be a great thing for them to take the next step with me.”
As for those assisted by CDR, Judy envisions the agency as a launching pad for residents it helps to succeed and give back. With CDR’s assistance, guidance, and programs, Judy feels many can go from relying on the services of CDR to one day “paying it forward.
“We’re providing meals for people having difficulties. That’s important, but to me, it’s taking it one step further than that,” says Judy. “Let’s gather the resources and do what we need to do to help them get ahead, to where they can become productive for themselves, so they can pay it forward. Then they can come in and volunteer for us and give back to their community as well.”