This is a guest post written by Kendal resident Harry Hammond. In it, Harry clears up some misconceptions about Kendal Corporation, explains a bit more about what we are losing in withdrawing, and provides additional background on the relationship between Kendal Corporation and Kendal-Crosslands Communities as an affiliate.

The decision of the Kendal-Crosslands Communities Board to leave the Kendal System is the third revisioning of the organization’s sense of self.  That the decision was done apart from its long range plan, suddenly, and without consultation with its four resident communities, makes it the organization’s most radical change in course.

I’ll return to this topic below. But first, I would like to clear up some misconceptions about Kendal Corporation.

Misconceptions. One resident told me that that there are no longer any Quakers on the Kendal Corporation Board. (Of the current 18 directors, 8 are active Quakers).  Another resident repeated what he heard during the announcement presentation – that there are no longer affiliate voices on the Kendal Corporation Board, as if that practice had ended at some point. That is also not true. I and three current KCC residents were Kendal Corporation directors during different stretches of the last 15 years. As of this month, 13 of the current 18 Kendal Corporation directors bring an affiliate perspective to their work on that board. Three of the 13 are a resident of their Kendal.  Others are or recently were on their affiliate’s board.  And, as at each Kendal affiliate, there are other non-board-member residents who serve on a Kendal Corporation Board Committee.

What we are leaving behind. George’s post on this topic reports on why KCC is leaving the family of Kendals. He accurately describes what our CEO and CFO announced.  We should also be aware of what KCC is leaving. It’s more than the shared history, mission, vision, achievement, and reputation. The other communities in the Kendal System also provided KCC (and vice versa) years of partnership within an industry that became highly competitive.  For each other, the affiliates have been sources of leadership, connection, operational efficiency, best practices, career paths, and formal and informal support of all sorts, including for administrators, line staff and residents. 

To know more about the larger human community that is the Kendal System and the full value of The Kendal Corporation’s services to the other affiliates, type “Kendal Corporation leadership” into your computer’s Google search box. At the web page, browse through the photos of the current board members. Click on any of them to discover that person’s life involvements. Do the same for Kendal Corporation staff members. As you do that, read the short paragraphs that introduce the work of each of the staff teams.

Instead of each Kendal having to contract out for or hire that expertise, staff leaders at a Kendal need only pick up the phone or send an email or text to get the support they want or need.

Now, let me turn to the background of KCC’s relationship with Kendal Corporation. It evolved through three major revisions of its self-conception, of which we are now experiencing the third.

Kendal reaches beyond its early success. Kendal began as a project of the all-Quaker Committee on Aging of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (PYM).  Its large grant of start-up money and devoted volunteers made Kendal at Longwood possible. After opening Kendal at Longwood, “Kendal Corporation” (the legal name of the founding board) soon realized that the unexpected high level of interest in the community would allow them to create a second community on a property that was nearby and available. Expanding the existing community wasn’t an acceptable option, as the single community would have been too large to be the face- to-face community that was wanted and promised. After the new project (Crosslands) transitioned from being under construction to being open and occupied, Kendal Corporation changed its name to “Kendal-Crosslands Corporation.” Although the corporation’s mission remained the same, the organization’s sense of self had shifted. 

That was our first revisioning.

Kendal-Crosslands embraces and then better accommodates opportunities. After successfully doubling the number of seniors served, while simultaneously advising other Quaker-founded senior-service organizations and projects, the board realized that their executive director and his staff could sponsor and generate yet more services for the aged. 

Increasingly, Philadelphia-area and out-of-state organizations and groups looked to Kendal-Crosslands for advice. Some wanted a CCRC in their area. Others wanted to create or have Kendal-Crosslands manage their skilled nursing facility. Others proposed research partnerships.  Some wanted a critique of their not-for-profit business plan.  Many were struggling to survive in a changed regulatory climate. Providing services to others strengthened the Kendal-Crosslands reputation and its revenue.  Strategic consideration of that complex nexus of activities and responsibilities (primary of which was operating its two CCRC communities) led the Kendal-Crosslands Board (chaired by Alan Hunt, formerly chair of PYM’s Committee on Aging) to undertake a comprehensive, inclusive, two-part, multi-year project. 

That project was our second revisioning.

The first part of this larger revisioning was the Kendal-Crosslands Board’s re-organization of its governance and management. In brief, each of its 20 directors chose to serve, going forward, on one or the other of what would be the two successor boards that Kendal-Crosslands created, to replace itself.  One board would govern the four Kennett area communities (Kendal, Crosslands and the two recently added over-55 communities, Coniston and Cartmel). This group was incorporated as “Kendal-Crosslands Communities Corporation.”

The others took up the work of governing the diverse other existing operations (local and out-of-state consulting, management contracting, development and construction of new communities, research partnerships, etc.) and also providing wanted resources and services to Kendal-Crosslands and to the soon-to-be Kendals (Hanover, Barclay, Oberlin, and others to follow) in ways yet to be agreed to by all involved. This segment of the soon-to-be dissolved Kendal-Crosslands board would be incorporated as “The Kendal Corporation.” That part of the revisioning of sense of self was mostly accomplished as of the end of 1989.

The more complicated part of this expansive revisioning was accomplished gradually, “as way opened,” between 1990 and 1996.  Staff leadership had to be re-organized.  Other staff had to be assigned to one or the other of the new organizations (KCC or The Kendal Corporation). Property deeds needed to be transferred, equipment sorted out, debt properly reassigned, offices moved, etc. The vision, the plan, and the implementation, of course, was discussed with residents of the communities here and with the Kendal Corporation’s partners in other states (New Hampshire, Ohio, and New York at that time). Quakers know how to hold tensions as they wait for unity to emerge.  The Kendal Corporation’s annual reports for those years (which served as joint annual reports for most of the Kendals – one of the Kendal Corporation’s services) tell the story of this remarkable collaboration.  That long period of discernment shows how waiting for unity to emerge from respectful and patient discussion of differences can be productive, even at that scale, when there’s the will to hold the tension rather than break relationship. 

“Interdependence” and the “Kendal system.” In retrospect, the overall process that led to the unity achieved was a search for an appropriate, not oppressive, voluntary, mutually beneficial “interdependence” of the legally independent organizations, each of which has its own governing board. (I borrow the term “interdependence” from Lloyd Lewis’s 1988 preface to Barbara Parson’s An Act of Fiath, The Kendal at Longwood Story). The affiliation of the Kendals is often referred to as “The Kendal System.” It was designed to sustain connection; to share wisdom; to spark and sustain innovation; to provide career paths across the communities; and to benefit the interests, operations, and services of each of the involved organizations.  The shared mission has been, “Together, transforming the experience of aging.”

The System grew from the two independent organizations (Kendal-Crosslands Communities and The Kendal Corporation) to more than a dozen. This year, the Kendal Corporation and its partner, the San Francisco Zen Center, is opening another Kendal (Enso Village, near Healdsburg, CA).  A second Kendal/Zen community is now in the early stages of development in Simi Valley, CA. The System’s equivalent of a constitution is the document titled “Affiliation Agreement.” The agreement is reviewed and revised every five years by the “Leadership Forum,” which is composed of the board chair and executive director of each of the affiliates, led by the Kendal Corporation board chair and CEO. (I participated as a member of the Kendal Corporation Board in the early stages of the current, much extended, and so far as I know, not yet concluded review process. My nine-year term on that board ended in December, 2022.  During the previous System Review (2013-2014), I participated as a member of the Kendal-Crosslands Communities Board, standing in for the KCC Board chair, who was unable to attend the series of gatherings at other Kendals and at KCC).

The third and most radical revisioning.  Last week, the Kendal-Crosslands CEO, speaking for the Kendal-Crosslands Communities Board, announced that KCC was “transitioning out of the System.”  Neither she nor the residents association officers informed residents that doing so was being considered.   Nor did she mention whether or not the KCC Board had used the System Agreement’s process for the separation.  Some residents are mourning the loss of involvement in the larger Kendal community.  Some are concerned about KCC’s ability to navigate the future without the knowledge base that the system provides.  Others are pleased that KCC will no longer be obligated to pay an affiliation fee and will instead hire and/or contract out the services that up to have been provided by the Kendal Corporation. Many are confused.  Some say it doesn’t matter, as our CEO promised that all services to residents will continue as they are. Most residents are simply silent.  

Some portion of the excellence of each Kendal was powered-up and sustained over the years by those employed at the Kendal Corporation.  And each Kendal in the family of Kendal’s (including the Kendal Corporation) has benefitted from the affiliation with the others. To test my conviction, browse through the 2022 or any earlier Kendal Annual Report. They’re available on the Kendal Corporation website.

As you read those annual reports, ponder KCC’s decision to become “self-sufficient,” no longer a part of the Kendal system, a yet-to be achieved condition now being celebrated by management. 

What’s to gain? What’s to lose? How do you feel about this development? What questions would you have asked if you had the opportunity to do so before the decision was made?  What does that decision communicate to the many friends of Kendal who don’t live or work here? Are Kendal’s values reflected in this disaffiliation or in the way it was done?  Which values seem to have been set aside?

Please comment below.  As of now, none of us have any other platform for open discussion.