Most of Barbara Black's life has been spent giving care to people.
One of 16 children, Black is originally from Fulton and spent 50 years as a nurse.
"I was number 13, and coming from a large family, I started around the age of 8 running errands for people in my neighborhood," Black said. "I'd do grocery shopping, sitting with someone who was sick and, even at that age, I'd go with some of them to their doctor's appointments. That way, they'd have that second ear to tell them what the doctor had said they needed to do."
Black came to Jefferson City in 1961 and attended the Jefferson City Public School of Practical Nursing. She was in the very first class to pass the state board and become licensed practical nurses.
She stayed as a practical nurse for nearly 30 years, 23 of those were spent working for Dr. Charles W. Cooper. Black then decided to go to school to become a registered nurse and studied at Lincoln University. Two years after graduating from LU, Black decided to open an adult day care in the late 1990s.
"I did that because my mother came to live with us while I was working," Black said. "She had lived in Fulton her entire life, and I felt bad leaving her at home all day without any socialization since she was in a new area. She had left all her friends. I read about the adult day care concept, which was just beginning to be developed at that time, and decided I would try to offer that service."
Black opened the first licensed adult day care center in Jefferson City and operated it for seven years. She then completed a merger with Easter Seals of Missouri, and they took over the management. They went on to develop services for young adults with disabilities and both services are still being offered. It's now known as Easter Seals Adult Day Services at the Gibbs Center on Southridge Drive.
"In my journey as a nurse, I also became certified as a congregational nurse so that's where my church, Second Baptist Church on Monroe Street, comes into play," Black said. "I'm a deaconess in the church, and we provide meals the first Saturday of every month for residents of the Salvation Army shelter on Jefferson Street."
Black said she never looked at her work as being a chore.
"One of the other services we have provided in our church is for senior adults who don't have family living in Jefferson City," Black said. "If they become ill, we go to the doctor with them, we set up their medicines and do care plans for them. I've served four individuals in church this way, and it isn't a short-term service. One gentleman we provided extended care for him for almost eight years. It's worked out beautifully."
Black said she didn't think it took a special person to do this type of work, but they do have to be "a caring person with the heart's desire to serve others."
"Everyone needs some help," Black said. "I find one of the most rewarding things is what these people have given to me. They have to change lifestyles immediately and be open to strange people coming into their lives. Once you build up a trusting relationship, they are very kind, and to me that means everything."
She may say she is retired, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and nursing homes had to close to visitors because of the pandemic, Black, who recently turned 79, took a job at the McDonald's restaurant in Holts Summit for three days a week.
"You know what that's done for me? It has put in an environment of truly energetic young people," Black said with a laugh. "I hear some of the craziest stories.
"If you're not doing something, what is life worth? I have a good friend who couldn't believe I would do this. I get a chance to inspire young people. They call me their grandma. It's a joy," she added.