Barbara H. McCord, a founder of The Coordinating Center, which helped those with complex medical issues exist in the community rather than a hospital, died Thursday of complications from heart failure at the John and Arloine Mandrin Chesapeake Hospice House in Harwood. The longtime Annapolis resident was 75.
“Barbara was our moral compass,” said Karen Ann Lichtenstein, who retired last year after serving as executive director of The Coordinating Center for 35 years. “If she thought something wasn’t right with Medicaid or the state, she’d take it on. She was a heartfelt advocate for the poor and the disabled. She was warm and friendly and open to people and the world.”
Priscilla P. Phillips of Annapolis is a registered nurse at the center and a longtime friend.
“Barbara was a true advocate for a group of children who were technically dependent. She worked to get them out of the hospital and into their homes and receive home care through the medical system." Ms. Phillips said. “She was also a wonderful writer who wrote our grant requests. These are the two things she brought to the center. She was just a cut above everyone else."
The former Barbara Kraft, daughter of Lawrence Steven Kraft, a professional measurer of ships, and his wife, Carolyn Miegel Kraft, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Randallstown.
She was a 1962 graduate of Mount St. Agnes High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1966 from the old Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington, which later merged with Loyola University Maryland. She also earned a master’s degree in family services from the University of Maryland.
Ms. McCord worked in public relations for the old Equitable Trust Co., volunteered with the Red Cross in Anne Arundel County and worked in child protective services for the county until becoming one of the founders of The Coordinating Center in 1983 and its first family services coordinator.
When the center was established, its original name was Coordinating Center for Home and Community Care, and it was located in the median strip of Route 3 in Millersville. In the intervening decades it has grown from a small operation to one with 300 employees who in addition to working with children also work with adults.
Many of their clients were children born with disabilities, and the center helped them live in their homes with medical assistance.
“While she wasn’t a social worker, Barbara brought many of those things to her families,” Ms. Phillips said. “She also started the Family Reserve Fund to help families with financial assistance. She put her heart and soul into The Coordinating Center and was a real guiding force in seeing how people are treated in this world. The children appreciated that she was in the world and in their world."
“As one of the originators of the Family Resources Fund, Barbara shared her passion for making sure clients were able to bridge the gap between public benefits and family needs,” according to a colleague, Nancy Bond, who wrote a news release announcing Ms. McCord’s death. “She was known to disability advocates for her work on the Medicaid Advisory Committee and for representing the needs of those whose voices were not always heard.”
Ms. Phillips recalled when she first met Ms. McCord that she used a silver Cross pen to do her work and carried her father’s old leather briefcase. She was not initially interested in computers.
“When computers first arrived, she said, ‘All I need is my Cross pen.’ When I told her that you could move whole paragraphs, she commandeered a computer and was off and running," Ms. Phillips said.
“Barbara wrote our proposals, grants and publications. She could write something that a fifth grader could understand as well as a Ph.D.,” Ms. Lichtenstein said. “One of her signature pieces was ‘Real Stories, True Victories’ that told the stories of our people.”
Her writing expertise earned her the sobriquet of The Village Scribe, Ms. Lichtenstein said.
“She was dedicated to saving one child at a time in this world,” Ms. Phillips said.
Ms. McCord was unwavering in her strong view of things.
“Barbara definitely had views that were strong and vigorous, and you couldn’t move her on them,” Ms. Lichtenstein said. “She was accepting in a really good way to a fault. If someone needed something, she got it for them. She was always on the side of the underdog.”
Ms. McCord retired in 2014.
She was a longtime communicant of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, where she taught and helped run its Sunday school for several years. She was also a member of One America, a group of African American parishioners that interacted with other faith groups in Annapolis.
“I’ve known Barbara since coming to St. Philip’s seven years ago, and she was always very supportive and a person I could always count on,” said the Rev. Randy K. Callender. “She was active in the healing service and Bible study. She was an extremely intelligent person, and we used to say she was everyone’s mom. People loved her.”
Father Callender, an Odenton resident, said: “Barbara was never afraid to show her faith in Jesus and was committed to her church and the community. As a member of One America, they were working with the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans."
Orion G. Jones, a member of St. Philip’s, served on the vestry and is president of the men’s choir.
“Barbara was an extremely caring and was loved by everyone at church,” said Mr. Jones, who lives in Hanover. “She was just a genuinely sweet and caring person.”
In addition to her professional life and church work, Ms. McCord volunteered in after-school tutoring programs at the Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary School in Annapolis.
Ms. McCord enjoyed writing poetry and was an active member of Churchyard Bards at her church. She was also an inveterate gardener, Orioles and Ravens fan.
Funeral services for Ms. McCord will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at her church, 730 Bestgate Road, Annapolis.
She is survived by her husband of 34 years, Joel McCord, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and currently news director at WYPR; two sons, Christopher Halligan of Rockville and Nicholas Halligan of New Orleans; a daughter, Stephanie McCord Fritz of Cape St. Claire; three grandchildren; and two nieces and a nephew. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.