Earning the spotlight behind the scenes
Donna Barnes is not a person who seeks the spotlight and would rather work behind the scenes and deflect credit to others.
A member of the Rotary Club of Crook County, she participates each year in hosting the Rotary on the Radio fundraiser, which raises money to fund local scholarships.
"I stay off the air," she admits. "I am usually in the background doing the accounting and the organizing of the event."
So when Barnes heard her name called during the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce's Awards Banquet as Citizen of the Year, she was a bit reluctant to take the stage alone.
"I was very honored," she said. "I feel like I should have had a lot more people on stage with me. It is not a solo effort. Everything I do, there is a whole group of passionate, dedicated people around me working just as hard."
Barnes grew up in Crook County during a time when the sawmill industry in Prineville was booming. Once the time came to enter the workforce, fresh out of business school, she joined the staff of Ochoco Lumber Company. Forty years later, she remains on that staff, having climbed from a clerk position in 1978 to accounting manager, a role she has held since 1992.
"I just kind of worked my way through every avenue of the company from personnel to sales, and then worked into accounting to my current position directly under the president of the company," she said.
Ochoco Lumber has historically been supportive of the business environment, both at the local and state level, Barnes said, so she began to take on volunteer roles in that realm. She is the past president of the Prineville Economic Development Board and is an executive board member of Economic Development of Central Oregon.
"That keeps us involved in our communities and being able to support the business community," she said.
But not all volunteer endeavors revolved specifically around business and the local economy. Barnes joined the Rotary Club and spent time as the past president of the now defunct Prime Time Toastmasters. She joined the Crook County Foundation in 2012 and has ascended to president of its board of directors. In addition, she served on the citizen-led committee that helped spearhead voter approval of a new jail construction bond.
More recently, she has helped spearhead Crook County On The Move, a Foundation-sponsored initiative committed to improving community health and individually longevity. The initiative came out of a failed attempt to earn a state-based Blue Zone designation.
"It needed to be a grassroots movement and needed to be held outside of other organizations, although plenty of other organizations are supporting it and are very excited about it," she said. "It needed to come from the community, so that is where I stepped up and agreed to see what we could do with it."
Barnes got involved with the initiative in part because it had garnered support from St. Charles Health Systems and because of the other passionate people involved, but she also knows from personal experience that a regular habit of exercise is important to one's health.
A few years back, while participating in the Paddy Pint, a local 5K fundraiser, she was talked into joining Prineville Oregon Running Klub.
"I can't run," she told the classmate who was trying to persuade her. "He says, 'Well can you walk?' Now, I can run a 5K that I couldn't before."
These days, 59-year-old Barnes figures her volunteer plate is plenty full.
"I would probably have to transition out of another area before I took something else on," she admits, "but I don't think that's a bad thing. It's good for people to rotate through organizations because it brings fresh ideas and new perspectives and allows younger people to get involved in the community. It is so important to keep that leadership evolving."