Brenda Eastridge remembers when east Columbia's Kings Contrivance village only had about 30 houses, when the village center wasn't there, when the community association met in an unheated space shared with lifeguards at the Macgill's Common pool house.
She's been there almost from the beginning of the village, watching it grow and change. But last month that came to an end.
After more than 16 years answering questions about traffic and street lighting, helping new arrivals settle in and long-time residents get along, Eastridge gave up her post as assistant village manager to take a full-time job elsewhere.
"It was not an easy decision," she says. "The association was very much a part of my life."
Eastridge left only because her two children are in college, and she needed a full-time salary to help pay tuitions, she says.
"I stayed at the job for as long as I did because I loved it so much," she says. "I loved being about to interact with people that I live with and know so well."
When she started, she was putting in about three hours every two weeks. The schedule worked out well, she says, because her children were young and she had little free time.
But she did the job well, co-workers say, and gradually increased her hours.
By the time she left three weeks ago, she was working 25 to 30 hours a week.
"I could trust her completely," says Anne Dodd, village manager, who hired Eastridge and still runs the community association. "I knew she could handle things well -- very well."
Eastridge is working full time in marketing at Baptist Home of Maryland and Delaware, a retirement home now in Owings Mills but moving to Columbia.
She likes her new job, she says, but misses working at the association among her neighbors and friends.
"You get to know so many people," Eastridge says. "You greet them when they move in and help them find their way around. You see their kids grow up and help them when they're moving out. I guess you become part of a lot of big transitions in people's lives."
Eastridge, an easygoing, serene woman, smiles as she remembers one woman who went into labor at Amherst House in the Kings Contrivance Village Center, where the association has been based since 1988.
The girl went on to take several classes at the association over the last several years, and Eastridge and her colleagues saw her grow to school age.
Leaving her colleagues was perhaps the hardest part of quitting, she says.
For more than a decade, she worked with the same women and came to know them like sisters.
Eastridge and Dodd, along with covenant adviser Stephanie Moore and former special events coordinator Diane Tollick, ran the community association side by side. They knew one another's phone numbers by heart and once called themselves "The Four Belles of Kings Contrivance."
"Our children grew up together," Tollick says. "We saw one another just about every day."
Says Eastridge, "When you work in a very small office with a few people, it's like a marriage. Anne and I were to the point where we knew what the other person was thinking before she said it."
Three years ago, after Tollick resigned to join her family's business, the quartet began to break up. Now that Eastridge has left, an era has come to an end, the women say.
"I still count Brenda as a friend," Dodd says. "We'll keep in touch, but it will be different around here -- it already is. I'm sort of pretending she's just out on vacation."
Pub Date: 12/17/96