WAPAKONETA — History isn’t just about the past to Rachel Barber. It binds the present and future of a community together as well. That’s why the lifelong resident of Wapakoneta has worked tirelessly to reconnect the city with its heritage.
It’s also why she has taken on projects to improve the life of residents today and into the future. Her selfless devotion to community was one of the reasons she was chosen as one of eight regional finalists for the 2010 Jefferson Awards for volunteer service.
“I get a lot of pleasure out of doing these things. I don’t do it for any kind of recognition. I do it because I enjoy it. I was very surprised by the nomination.”
Among Barber’s volunteer activities was the researching, compilation and publication of a book about Wapakoneta’s history. She served on the steering committee for the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s lunar landing. She also helped coordinate efforts to replace a 1930s era swimming pool with the $1.5 million Wapakoneta WaterPark.
“Rachel, ever since school, she’s been involved with this community,” Larry Ankerman, who nominated Barber for the award, said. “I’ll tell you what, this gal is unbelievable. She gets so involved in things. If she can’t get it done she knows who to go to in order to get the answers and get things done. She’s a pure Wapakoneta gal.”
Greg Myers, executive director of the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council, said Barber has been a great ambassador for the city and its rich heritage.
“She has a very strong sense of the importance of our heritage. She gets very excited when she shares it,” Myers said. “She’s got a very strong passion for the history of Wapakoneta. She is a determined person. She’s always inspiring people to do more.”
In 2007, Barber also volunteered time coordinating the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure. More than 3,000 riders came through for three days and experienced what the city has to offer. In addition, she was a founding member of the Wapakoneta Tree Commission that was started to work on city beautification efforts.
“It’s a quality of life issue. It’s about making this a great place for people to live and raise their families. It’s more than a collection of houses that happen to be in proximity to each other. I want to bring people together and make Wapakoneta the best it can be, the best it’s supposed to be.”
The Jefferson Awards for Public Service honor outstanding volunteers in our community. The area's representative to go to Washington, D.C., will be announced March 23 in a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center. Over eight days, The Lima News offers profiles of this year's finalists:
Today: Rachel Barber
Wednesday: Harold Gerten
Thursday: David Howell
Friday: Mary Lou Krietemeyer
Tuesday, March 16: Rick Miller
Wednesday, March 17: Barbara and Arliss Plaugher
Thursday, March 18: Bonnie Shook
Friday, March 19: Larry Webb