Barb City Manor in DeKalb celebrates 45 years in 2024

DeKalb retirement community’s anniversary celebrations included open house, DeKalb Chamber event

Barb City Manor residents play some catch Tuesday, July 2, 2024, at the retirement home in DeKalb. Barb City Manor celebrated its 45th anniversary earlier this year.

DeKALB – Jill Zarek knows how much it means to her to have searched and found a residential community that she can call home.

The former Romeoville resident recalled visiting three senior housing developments years ago when she was looking with the help of her son.

At Barb City Manor in DeKalb, Zarek said she’s found a place where she genuinely wants to be.

“I walked down the ramp here, and I felt, ‘Oh my god, I’m home. It has a home-spun atmosphere. And it’s welcoming.’ That’s how I feel about it,” Zarek said. “It’s got the things I need. I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got meals provided to me – the housekeeping, the place to lay my head – it’s a good thing, all in all.”

In 2024, Barb City Manor celebrated a milestone anniversary as the retirement community marked 45 years in DeKalb.

The occasion was commemorated in April with both a community open house and DeKalb Chamber event.

Barb City Manor executive director Sarah Davis said the retirement community’s 45th anniversary means a great deal to her and her team.

“I think it’s a huge accomplishment,” Davis said. “We’re very, very fortunate that we’ve been able to serve seniors for 45 years in DeKalb. We’ve had generations of families that have lived here, which is very unusual. We’ve had up to three generations of family members that have lived here. … It’s a wonderful building with a lot of stories, a lot of history and a lot of people.”

Housed in the former DeKalb Public Hospital building, Barb City Manor first opened its doors Feb. 1, 1979. At that time, the retirement community had one resident and 11 staff members.

“It’s got the things I need. I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got meals provided to me – the housekeeping, the place to lay my head – it’s a good thing, all in all.”

—  Jill Zarek

Now, Barb City Manor has 62 studio and one-bedroom apartments and 37 staff members.

Doug O’Brien gave kudos to his daughter for helping him and his wife find a new home at Barb City Manor.

“She came in and moved us from Plainfield to here,” O’Brien said.

At Barb City Manor, residents get three meals provided a day, along with housekeeping and staff available on site 24/7.

O’Brien said he and his wife stayed at Barb City Manor for a while until it was determined that she needed more intensive support than the retirement community could provide. His wife now resides at the DeKalb County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, he said.

“Now she’s over at county [home] and I’m here,” he said. “It couldn’t be better. They’re taking good care of her over there. And I’m still mobile enough. I can do whatever I want to do. I just bought a new car. I’m not bound in here, like other people are. I can leave. I can come come back, and I can do my thing.”

At Barb City Manor, staff and residents alike have a track record of staying whether it be to live or work at the retirement community.

Davis attributes residents’ and employees’ tendency to stick around Barb City Manor to the positive culture that’s been built around the retirement community over the years.

“I think it just helps the residents feel comfortable,” Davis said. “There’s not new faces all of the time. We’re able to keep an eye on everyone and make sure that they’re safe, healthy and getting the services that they need.”

Sharell Suiter said she’s lived at Barb City Manor the past 13 years.

“I’ve seen different people come and go,” Suiter said. “Some of my friends from here have passed away.”

Suiter said a lot has changed in the time she’s been a resident at Barb City Manor.

“I didn’t really think I would be here that long,” she said. “I am glad I am. I enjoy everything.”

Davis said Barb City Manor still manages to separate itself from the competition after 45 years in business. One thing that makes the manor stand out, Davis thinks, is its independent-living.

“There’s a ginormous need for housing for seniors that isn’t assisted living or nursing home,” Davis said. “There are not a lot of facilities like us.”

Davis said she is happy with the direction that Barb City Manor is going in the future.

“We’re trying to always modernize the building,” she said. “We’re working towards Wi-Fi and looking at the needs of the residents coming in and what they may or may not need or want, so that they can have access to that.”

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