On October 25th, Golden LEAF’s first director of administrative services, Rhea Barnes, retired. Rhea has served the Golden LEAF Foundation for more than 20 years. Last week, Rhea celebrated with Board members and current and former Golden LEAF staff. She was showered with gifts, songs, and years of fond memories.
As Senior Director of Administrative Services, Rhea’s responsibilities included overseeing the general administrative management of the office in the areas of Information Systems/Technology and Security, Human Resources, Facility Management, Meeting Logistics and Accounting/Bookkeeping. Her specialties include planning, coordinating, and directing services that allow organizations to operate efficiently. Rhea has extensive experience in administrative management. She received her bachelor’s degree in business management from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia.
“I want to thank you for your 20 years of service to Golden LEAF,” said Golden LEAF Board Chair Don Flow. “You have always done an exceptional job. As one of the first members of the Golden LEAF team, you developed the roles of operations and have willingly taken on new and expanded duties throughout your career. Your service has been instrumental in the success of the foundation.”
Mr. Flow presented Rhea with a framed copy of a resolution on her behalf read at the October 2022 Board meeting.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to send our gratitude for your leadership, creativity, and commitment to Golden LEAF, the state of North Carolina, and to those affected directly by Golden LEAF support,” said Mr. Flow. “I hope you have a wonderful retirement, filled with much joy and good health.”
Mr. Flow also presented Rhea with a framed certificate of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. This is an honor granted by the State of North Carolina to individuals who have shown extraordinary service to the state. It is the highest award for state service granted by the Governor.
Longest serving Board member Lawrence Davenport has known Rhea since she began working for Golden LEAF in August 2002.
“Rhea came to Golden LEAF at the right time and played a tremendous part in founding the organization and growing it to the successful organization that it is today,” said Mr. Davenport. “Rhea has dedicated twenty years to the Golden LEAF Foundation and subsequently our state’s tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and rural areas. As Senior Director of Administrative Services at the Golden LEAF Foundation, she has been an instrumental part of the successful day-to-day operations that make the statewide organization run so smoothly. Rhea has been a vital part of the growth of the foundation from a million dollar foundation to a billion foundation and has helped with the payments of thousands of grants totaling more than a billion dollars.”
The first President of the Golden LEAF Foundation Valeria Lee was thrilled to take the credit for hiring Rhea.
“Rhea’s work at Golden LEAF has made the Foundation the exemplary organization it has become,” said Ms. Lee. “Rhea was my first hire and moved up immediately and continued to grow in title and responsibility over the years. Her commitment to fiscal accountability and organizational integrity was above board. She worked tirelessly to support the Foundation to fulfill its mission to benefit people and communities affected by a changing North Carolina economy. I am most impressed by her devotion to family, loyalty to friends, and work as a team member.”
President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton agreed with the sentiment that Rhea fostered a family atmosphere at Golden LEAF.
“Rhea welcomed and accepted me into the Golden LEAF family from the very start,” said Mr. Hamilton. “I am so grateful for her service to the Foundation. I’m particularly thankful for her quick thinking on problem solving, her ability to handle multiple conflicting deadlines, and her ability to turn on a dime to solve something she had never encountered before. There was no task too big or too small that Rhea did not joyfully tackle. Her service to the Foundation has not only been valuable to the organization but to all of those we serve. Although Rhea’s work was not directly seen or felt by those that have benefited from the impact of the Foundation’s funding, it has had a direct influence on how we operate and that will have an impact on families in North Carolina for generations. I will miss Rhea and wish her the absolute best in her next adventures.”
Golden LEAF’s second President Dan Gerlach agreed that Rhea worked very hard to seem like things were not hard to accomplish.
“Rhea definitely was the unsung hero and key cog in Golden LEAF’s important work,” said Mr. Gerlach. “Over the 10 years I worked with Rhea, I depended on her to ensure that the crucial details were executed well. Her problem solving and work ethic were always at the highest of levels. She is one of the people we are all blessed to know who do the big and little things well and with little fanfare. She made the difficult and complex things seem effortless. She has a servant’s heart and gives freely and without complaint.”
Of current Golden LEAF staff members, Senior Vice President/General Counsel Ted Lord has worked with Rhea the longest.
“After Rhea announced her retirement, I was part of the team tasked with drafting a job description to use to advertise her position,” said Mr. Lord. “The process of trying to describe and categorize Rhea’s work made very clear how much we rely on her in some way for nearly everything that goes on at the Foundation: information technology, facilities management, human resources, and more. Even with all those duties included, that job description didn’t really capture Rhea’s role. When a board member’s spouse was ill, Rhea went and visited with them. When (many years ago) I brought my young daughter to the office to spend time in the mornings before daycare opened, Rhea gave her a collection of unicorns to play with. When staff members need chocolate, they go to Rhea’s office. She is in many ways the heart and soul of the Foundation staff. When Rhea said she was retiring to help care for a family member and to spend more time with her daughter and family, it was obvious there couldn’t be any better reason for Rhea to decide to retire than to be with people who she loves and who need her. We will miss her but send her our congratulations on her retirement.”
Rhea is looking forward to her next chapter and will be selflessly providing a kidney for her brother who needs one. She will also be afforded the opportunity to spend precious time with her amazing daughter, Destiny, and son-in-law, Julian. The Golden LEAF Foundation Board and staff congratulate her on her achievements and wish her the best in her next adventures.