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Monday, May 2, 2016

Faces & Places: Lynn Barber - A Giving Heart

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lynne Barber with SACS and Struggle Buddies Ministries works in her home office after hours to man the crisis line. Barber is constantly working to help those in need in the area. Photo/Tammy Curtis
"Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment." This quote is one that can best describe Lynne Barber. She is a lifelong resident of the area having grown up in Strawberry and currently living in Cave City. Barber gives of herself every day as she serves as director of Struggle Buddies Christian Ministry, a family based ministry that partners with Spring River Adult and Child Services, Incorporated (SACS) in Ash Flat where she also serves as executive director and victim advocate, both very stressful, yet fulfilling jobs.

Essentially Barber is never far from her work, whether it be at the Ash Flat office, in court helping victims of domestic violence obtain orders of protection, monitoring the 24/7 crisis hotline, working from her home office, providing community education or with inmates at the Sharp County Detention Center teaching family violence education to inmates. There is no doubt, she is always on the phone, computer or on the go. She is also instrumental in the yearly Clothesline Project which is a visual display created for victims of domestic violence who have been killed or whose lives have been changed due to the selfless act of domestic violence.

She said there is never a typical day in her field of work, but says her days go so much better if she has time in the mornings for prayer and meditation. She said she is never far from her resource book as she monitors the hotline most weekday evenings and weekends. She compared her job to that of having a small infant, one which she can never walk away from, and she would have it no other way. Although the job brings about an extreme amount of stress and nearly 150 hours of work a week, Barber said it also gives her more satisfaction than anything. Anyone who knows her can attest to the fact that she is in this field for the people she helps and she gets great satisfaction from what she does.

Lynne Barber shows a memory board in her home office which is a constant reminder of lives lost due to domestic violence. Photo/Tammy Curtis
SACS is a nonprofit community based agency which Barber said the main focus is to serve families and individuals who are affected by the terrible reality of domestic violence and sexual assault in both Sharp and Fulton counties. The agency is not limited to this type of services as Barber also helps with various other community projects. Some of the other areas which assistance is offered by the organization include community education to employers, churches and civic groups. They also assist families who lose their homes due to fires and other natural disasters and provide coats for the needy and Christmas gifts for children in need. Recently the agency also partnered with Adventures in Grandparenting support group which offers support to the many grandparents raising grandchildren. Barber said her agency strives to help anyone in need in the area. Some of their services include peer counseling, domestic violence education and safety planning as well as referrals to safe shelter and court advocacy, including assistance with orders of protection. It seems her heart has enough room to help any and everyone who demonstrates need.

To demonstrate Barber's selfless caring nature, she quit college at the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville where she was pursuing a psychology degree when she was offered a position of a woman's advocate and volunteer coordinator with Family Violence Prevention in Batesville. She said due to scheduling she let her degree go and said, "I decided this would be a good way to make sure this is what I wanted to be 'when I grew up.'" She said she still hopes to accomplish that goal someday, but has very much enjoyed her journey. "Volunteerism will do more for the volunteer than it will ever do for the person being helped," she said.

Barber said she has always had a tender spot in her heart for those who were bullied or less fortunate. As a person who experienced both mental illness and domestic abuse in her family, it is natural for Barber to want to help people. She gives the ultimate credit to God and her husband of 26 years, Thom, who she says is her rock and her other half. She said he is always supportive and helpful to her in everything she does. She also has a son Aaron Lee of Batesville and daughters Maegan Barber Lucas of Cave City and Mekail Barber Brady of Lynn. Prior to becoming involved with helping those in need, Barber ran a home daycare at Strawberry and in Florida. She began Struggle Buddies Christian Ministry in 2001 with a jail ministry and progressed to an outreach for Family Violence Prevention and Safe Haven Shelter in 2002. While at the shelter, where she began as a volunteer advocate, she was asked to join the staff and was eventually moved to the position of executive director.

Barber can always be found helping people, whether they be victims of domestic violence or just people in need. She said most people never think of the needs of both men and women leaving their partners due to abuse; many leave with only the clothes on their backs. Barber assists these individuals with locating resources and counseling, as well as serving as an advocate for them which includes sitting in court four or more days a month with clients. While visiting with Barber at her Cave City home, she was in the process of yet another one of her many projects which included collecting numerous household items for a former co-worker who had lost everything in a house fire. To Barber this is as natural as breathing. She said there are many types of needs and Barber does everything she can within her power to help others. When asked about awards or recognitions she has received, it was obvious that material trophies and paper certificates were irrelevant to her as she said, "The smiles and hugs from my husband, kids and clients are the best." She said she believes this field of work is truly God's choosing. Barber said, "He has used my own life experiences with mental illness, family violence and drug abuse to help me minister to other families struggling with addictions and abuse."

The SACS agency helped more than 850 people in 2009 and her Struggle Buddies Christian Ministry helped about 40 individuals with prayer, mentoring, food, transportation, moving, military service support and other family support services. SACS is located within the United Methodist Church at Ash Flat and is mostly funded from its SACS thrift store in Highland, but Barber says the organizations greatest needs are financial contributions and volunteers for the crisis hotline as well as the constant need of paper goods and office supplies. SACS receives no federal funding and is completely supported by donations and revenues from the thrift store, these needs are also things Barber is constantly aware of and trying to find solutions to on top of the mountain of giving she does for her clients. She said her greatest hope is that the agency will eventually have its own office in Ash Flat with room for a food pantry and private counseling area.

When Barber does have time to do things she likes, she enjoys quiet time with God, having a date day with her husband, playing Wii, going to thrift stores and auctions, traveling, yard work, gardening and spending time with her kids around the table. Stop by SACS and if you are lucky enough to find Barber in the office, give her a pat on the back for a job well done and let her know how much the community benefits from her caring heart.

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