CFHS applauds history of outgoing director

Nadia Barakat (left), outgoing executive director of the Chadds Ford Historical Society, poses with Ali Rhodes, a CFHS board member, during Barakat's farewell tribute.

For seven years, Nadia Barakat infused the Chadds Ford Historical Society (CFHS) with her passion and commitment in a variety of roles, culminating in her most recent stint as executive director.

Nadia Baraka says she's going to miss her CFHS colleagues but is eager to spend more time with her family.

Nadia Baraka says she's going to miss her CFHS colleagues but is eager to spend more time with her family.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, a mix of staff, board members, and volunteers assembled at the CFHS Barn Visitors’ Center to bid her farewell as she embarks on a new chapter, one that will involve traveling and spending more time with family.

“Yes, it’s bittersweet,” said CFHS Board President Kendal Reynolds. “But she’s leaving us during our slower months, and she’s given us a great foundation.”

Reynolds credited Barakat with establishing the society’s financial stability, heightening its visibility in the community, making the Barn Visitors' Center more inviting to guests, boosting programs and technology, and elevating the organization’s operational structure, efficiency and transparency.

After facing fiscal hardships for many years, the society has posted revenues in excess of expenses for two years in a row, Reynolds said. “We’ve expanded the number of events we host, increased our exposure in the community through technology, improving the volunteer database and methods of communications,” she added.

Nadia Barakat (right) is shown with her husband, Joe, who also received kudos from CFHS for his support.

Nadia Barakat (right) is shown with her husband, Joe, who also received kudos from CFHS for his support.

During that time, Barakat always kept the best interests of the society in mind, Reynolds said. “We still have things to work on, but Nadia left a tremendous amount of momentum. The goal is to continue to carry that torch and carry that flag.”

In addition to expressing gratitude to Barakat, Reynolds also cited the role of her husband, Joe, who endured his wife’s long hours and dedication to the job. “Joe has always been an absolute supporter, and we can’t thank him enough,” Reynolds said.

Joe Barakat said he was proud of his wife’s accomplishments, particularly ridding the society of its red ink. “She put her heart and soul into it,” he said. “She really loved what she was doing.”

Nadia Barakat said she would miss all of the people with whom she interacted. “I’ve enjoyed each and every one,” she said. However, she said she’s eager to spend more time with family members. “This was the right time to make a change,” she explained.

CFHS Board President Kendal Reynolds (left) assists Nadia Barakat her final duty: cutting cake.

CFHS Board President Kendal Reynolds (left) assists Nadia Barakat her final duty: cutting cake.

She recalled serving on the board in 2009 and recognizing the need for an office manager. She began filling in as needed, which resulted in the creation of that position. Later, a similar evolution occurred with the post of executive director; she performed that role unofficially before it became her permanent position.

Reynolds said the process of finding a replacement for Barakat has begun, and she anticipated filling the vacancy sometime in March. She said the board would be working to determine what skills would best complement the society’s other two staff members, Derek Larson and Allison Schell, both of whom were hired in 2015.

“They bring both excitement and energy as well as solid operational value in their respective fields,” Reynolds said, citing Larson’s accounting and project management acumen and Schell’s expertise in education programs and collections.

Barakat said she’s excited about the CFHS’s future. “It’s going to be super,” she said. “They can only go up from here.”

 

 

 

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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