Volunteering is second nature for resident
Editor’s Note: Community Pioneer is a series highlighting individuals for their philanthropy and dedication to the community. One resident will be honored each month and featured in a Pioneer Tribune Article.
MANISTIQUE – A mainstay in various volunteer efforts throughout the city, Dan Barber’s philanthropy is difficult to overlook. Whether he’s working at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, cooking a community breakfast or running a craft show fundraiser, Barber insists he is just doing what he loves.
Barber, who moved with his family to Manistique in 1955, graduated from Manistique High School in 1960. He married the former Donna Johnson and had three children – David, Dianna, and Danelle.
In the beginning of his working career, Barber owned and operated Gambles store, which was housed in the current St. Vincent de Paul’s store. After the company that owned the Gambles name filed for bankruptcy, he sold the building and went to work for Curran Chevrolet in 1984.
Working as a car salesman for Curran’s for nearly 20 years, Barber retired in 2003. Following his retirement, Barber said he realized he wasn’t comfortable with being idle.
“I am fully retired, but retire with nothing to do? No. Never,” he said. “It’s worse not having anything to do.”
So, upon retirement, Barber kept up his longtime volunteer efforts, such as the Knights of Columbus – which he has been a member of for over 50 years, and even took on some more. After a call from Bonnie Garvin seven years ago, Barber agreed to volunteer to operate the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.
“At that time we were across from the Catholic Church … everything was piled up in boxes, with no rhyme or reason to anything,” he said. “I told her I would, but I had a lot of changing around to do.”
After Garvin agreed to Barber’s request, he got to work, reorganizing the pantry’s shelves and even helping with the facility’s move to their downtown location in 2007. Over the past year, Barber’s food pantry moved once again, this time to the building adjacent to the St. Vincent de Paul Store.
“They told me that I can give food three times a calendar year (to each family), and I told them there’s no way I would operate under those guidelines,” he said. “If you need food, you’ll get it. I don’t care if it’s five times or once a month.
A person … if they need food, they need food,” he added.
With the move to their current location, Barber said the pantry was able to expand their hours, Monday Wednesday and Friday from 10-12 and from 1-3 – giving him a more solid schedule.
“I was on call six days a week, and I had no time to myself,” he said. “Now I have two other people who can work the pantry, and we always have two people here when somebody comes.”
The new schedule hasn’t changed Barber’s commitment, though. He still does all of the shopping for the goods that aren’t donated, and checks each and every item brought into the shelter.
“I go through every single item, and pull the expired items out,” he said. “I try not to have any expired items in the pantry.”
Food drives and donations from both area businesses and residents never cease to amaze Barber, who readily acknowledges the philanthropy of others.
“This whole town is great – you can’t beat it,” he said.
Proof of this lies in his records, Barber explained.
“I’ve kept files since I started and I’ve given out over 100,000 pounds in food,” he said. “We have anywhere from 30-35 people a month. There’s always a month or two in the winter when we go almost to 40 families.”
The people coming through the pantry can expect complete privacy, Barber added.
“As far as anyone, even St. Vincent’s, they have no idea who goes through,” he said. “It’s strictly myself. It’s a little bit of privacy, because there’s nothing harder than to walk into a place and say, ‘I’m out of food; I need help’.”
In addition to his work at the pantry, Barber goes to the St. Francis de Sales church twice a month at 3:30 a.m. to cook a community breakfast as part of the Knights of Columbus.
“It’s to raise a little money for the school,” he said.
Barber spends any additional time he has placing American flags at the cemetery, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, helping organize area blood drives and volunteering at the Manistique Senior Center. In September, Barber helps run his family’s craft show, which donates the money earned to the county’s D.A.R.E program.
“I find it really difficult to say ‘no’ when someone needs help,” he said.
Barber has no plans to retire fully, and insists he doesn’t know when he’ll slow down.
“You never know,” he said.
“They keep telling me I can’t quit,” he added with a chuckle.
In the meantime, Barber said he will continue to serve the community he is so proud to be a part of.
“There are people around who will help; it’s really nice,” he said. “Manistique people – you can’t beat them.”