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Kathryn Westland to Lead Friendship Center

Friendship Center

3 min read

Jul 18, 2023

Written by Cyder Sinclair, Board President of Friendship Center After an extensive search for a candidate to follow beloved leader Heidi Holly, who served for 38 years, Friendship Center Board of Directors is proud to announce its selection of Kathryn Westland. Westland brings extensive experience, focused passion, and innovative vision to her work in the senior care space. She previously served as the Friendship Center’s program manager and is excited to rejoin the organization in the capacity of Executive Director. While at Friendship Center, Westland oversaw a high-energy, dynamic program to accommodate the unique interests, abilities and life stories of the attending members. Kathryn led the organization’s transition to a virtual programming model in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and collaborated with several organizations, locally and beyond, to continue engaging isolated seniors along the Central Coast. She looks forward to supporting the organization’s capacity to grow in a multitude of ways and is eager to work closely with the dedicated staff and board that make Friendship Center so special. “I am grateful to have been able to work closely with and be mentored by Heidi Holly (previous executive director) for many years, which increases my confidence for this collaborative transition,” explains Westland. Having spent 13 years living with a loved one who had dementia, Kathryn has been dedicated to discovering ways to support the aging community from a very young age. Raised in Pasadena, California, Kathryn’s educational and research pursuits have taken her far and wide, including obtaining her undergraduate degree from University of St Andrews, Scotland, and her master’s degree in public health from the University of Sydney, Australia.

Throughout the course of her academic and professional career, she has been particularly fascinated with models of care that empower older adults to comfortably age-in-place. That fascination is what led her to Friendship Center in 2017, when she became the organization’s dedicated program manager until transitioning to Alzheimer’s Association in 2021. While at the Alzheimer’s Association, Westland served as the Central Coast’s director of programs, and was responsible for the design and coordination of the organization’s care and support programs reaching over 3,000 families annually. “Kathryn is the ideal match to lead the next chapter of the Friendship Center’s growth and impact in our community,” said Cynder Sinclair, Board Chair of Friendship Center. “Her passion for and creative approach to senior care along with her outstanding background and skill set is sure to forge an exciting path for the future of Friendship Center.” Westland explains her journey toward adult day care for individuals with dementia like this: “In 2016 I attended a women’s workshop in Sydney where we were encouraged to dig deep into our passions to vocalize our life goals,” she said. “When my turn came to share with the large group, I honestly didn’t have to ‘dig’ all too far. “‘I want to create a mindful space for people to age with joy, humor, and dignity,’ is what I shared, and even jotted down, but didn’t quite know how to actualize this dream. (I know this sounds impossibly specific, but it was the space I grew up in living with my beloved grandpa and the space where I knew I was ultimately meant to be). “When I ‘temporarily’ moved to Santa Barbara in 2017 and found Friendship Center Adult Day Services, the pieces came together; I found my place, and in Heidi Holly found the most admirable mentor.

“Returning to Friendship Center in the capacity of executive director is like coming home again. There will be much to learn in this new role but with the support of Heidi, Cynder Sinclair, Ph.D. and the fabulous Board of Directors, my Leading From Within community, as well as my friends and family, I know I can do it.” Westland lives in Santa Barbara with her husband David and their pug Ana. The succession committee, comprised of six members of the Friendship Center Board of Directors, began the search for a new executive director began in April. With the expert assistance of Christopher Davis of Wave Comm Santa Barbara, the committee announced the open position in a number of outlets. More than 60 applications were received. Those candidates were narrowed to 15 strong potentials. Next, three committee members conducted Zoom interviews, resulting in six remaining contenders. After two candidates removed their applications due to timing, three committee members conducted face-to-face interviews with the remaining four candidates. Two leading contenders were invited to meet with the Board of Directors, take a tour of Friendship Center, and interact with staff. Ultimately, after 12 weeks of intensive searching, the board voted for Westland as the new executive director. “We are very proud of our systematic approach to the search process,” said David Selberg, CEO of Hospice of Santa Barbara and co-chair of the succession committee. “We were thrilled with the high caliber of applicants, and we are all eager to begin working in partnership with our new executive director, Kathryn Westland,” he said.

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