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Camping: Grandchildren, people are her hobbies
Ten grandchildren are a huge part of the private life of Bethany administrator Barbara Camping while serving over 25 years in skilled nursing facility on West Main Street. - photo by GLENN KAHL

“Can you imagine going to work every day and doing something you love and getting paid for it?”

Being an administrator at Bethany Home is something Barbara Camping has looked forward to over the past 25 years — a passion for her,  she says.  A passion that has seen many teenagers going to work there first as dinner assistants and often moving up into activities helpers.

Students first come to work on two hour shifts and fill the water containers in each patient’s room and then wheel many of them into the dining room.  This gives them one-on-one contact with the residents in the home and a better idea if nursing should be in their futures.

One of Camping’s two daughters is an LVN at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto after receiving certified nursing assistant (CNA) training at Bethany under Margaret DeJong.

Some 15 to 20 of those teens have gone on to become LVNs and RNs.  And Bethany also had a Regional Occupational Training program that taught many Ripon high school students about their potential in the nursing field — opening the door for a medical vocation.

The board of directors surprised her at the recent staff Christmas party with a diamond studded wrist watch for her years of service as administrator of the skilled nursing facility.

She said she was at first in awe that six board members could attend the Christmas party in support of the staff — not realizing why so many were there.  There was another reason — to recognize Camping’s devotion to the home.

She says she counts her blessings every day for her 10 grandchildren — two to 15 years old — and for her “wonderful” staff members as well as for the residents of the home on West Main Street.

Many people today don’t recognize the frail elderly for who they really are and often feel they don’t have value, she said.  “They teach us so much,” she said of the patients who demonstrate the ultimate in patience and often pour out endless knowledge from their yesterdays.

When I interrupted Barbara’s afternoon telling her I wanted to talk about her 25 years she demonstrated humility about being in the spotlight.  So we switched gears to talk about the facility and when she came on board.

She had worked for the Visiting Nursing Association in Modesto before coming to Ripon when the facility had 74 beds having grown to 92.  There were 110 full and part-time employees — now there are 190.

She started the same day as Margaret DeJong  Marge Pasma was director of nurses.  Barbara said others included Judy McBride and Mary Anna Love.  She remembers Pasma as being very professional when she first took her new position.

“We still have the most amazing team working together,” Camping said.

Sue Lemke who works the front counter is her backup — her administrative assistant complete with a nursing home administrator’s license.  To achieve that license requires the passage of state and federal boards, she said.

She remembers working for Ken Hekman until he left for another position and his father Martin came out of retirement in 1986 until Bruce Nickel came on board.  

Barbara walks every day, she said, complete with ear muffs this time of the year.  She also likes to read novels and historical literature.