Shirley Carlson has worked at Hilltop Manor, a housing complex in Marion, for 23 years.
Her granddaughter, Carla Tharp, has helped her in the office since she was a freshman in high school.
“It’s very special to work with my granddaughter,” Carlson said. “She is like a daughter to me.”
After graduating from high school, Carla attended Emporia State University. She came back to the office after graduating in 2007.
Without Carla’s help, Carlson would not have been able to keep her job as executive director. She was used to doing everything on paper. When computers came along, she was lost.
“Grandma was too dumb to run the computer,” Carlson said of herself.
Carla set up the necessary computer programs. She collects data and submits monthly reports.
Aside from computer input, the two women do everything together at work. They direct activities, take residents on trips, and organize potlucks, birthdays, and other special events. They also work together to clean empty apartments and prepare them for new occupants.
In 2010, Carla became executive director, and her grandmother became her assistant. Carlson is still activities director.
Carla’s brother, Nick Carlson, is in charge of maintenance at Hilltop Manor.
Carla is married to Dave Tharp. They have two children, Jacob, 5, and Ryan, 3. She said her grandmother encouraged her to bring her babies to work. Both boys spent the first years of their lives going with their mother to the office.
“It’s been fun to work with Grandmother,” Carla said. “We’ve always been close.”
She said she visited the office often as a child. The two women cook together, go to garage sales together, and do many other things together outside of work.
“It’s a joy to come in every morning and see Carla,” Carlson said. “She’s always there for me.”