Herald inspirational columnist Harvie Barker has joined the likes of Mother Theresa as a recipient of Rotary International’s highest award.
Barker was the guest of honour Tuesday morning at a virtual meeting of the Penticton Sunrise Rotary Club, which presented him the Unsung Citizen of Penticton Award. He was also named a Paul Harris Fellow, which is the Rotary movement’s top honour.
“I feel very honoured to receive this award and I thank you very much,” the soft-spoken Barker told club members after the official presentation.
Club president Mac Paterson said the Unsung Citizen Award, which was first presented in 2016 to Vees great Ivan McLelland, “aims to highlight area residents who have quietly undertaken altruistic deeds that serve to enrich our social tapestry and create a more vibrant, equitable and inclusive community. “
Barker was recognized primarily “for his tireless 18-year devotion to writing impactful inspirational newspaper messages” through his “A Good Word in Season” columns, said Paterson.
After retiring from his work as a United Church minister in Revelstoke and moving to Penticton in 2003, Barker reached out to then-publisher Andre Martin to see if The Herald would be interested in a new biweekly column of a spiritual nature but without religious language.
The series has proven so popular that Barker’s columns – which are still proofread by his wife, Liz, but now come less frequently – have been periodically repackaged into nine soft-covered books.
“I couldn’t help but say yes to Harvie when he asked me for help setting up his first book for production,” said Martin.
“One of the nicest people I had met and when news headlines were generally bad, it was a great way to reinforce the ‘good’ things going on in the world. Little did I know the book series would be so successful and how it would touch so many people who were struggling – a living testament to Harvie’s calling.”
All proceeds from the “A Good Word in Season” series have been donated to Pathways Addictions Resource Centre and previously The Herald’s Be an Angel campaign. To date, the books, which are available at The Herald office, have raised approximately $28,000.
“In the intervening 18 years since the series’ humble beginnings, numerous loyal readers have undoubtedly forwarded relevant articles near and far to comfort loved ones and friends going through a difficult soul-searching period in their lives,” said Paterson.
“Those of us who have come to know (Barker) are the richer for it.”
He joins McLelland, Alan Dawkins, Tracy Fehr, Bob Anderson, Jean Kearney and Sandra Richardson as recipients of the Unsung Citizen of Penticton Award.
Barker’s companion award, the Paul Harris Fellow, is named after Rotary’s founder and puts him in the company of other noted humanitarians like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter.
This story has been corrected. A previous version mistakenly left out Alan Dawkins, Tracy Fehr, Bob Anderson, Jean Kearney and Sandra Richardson as other prior recipients of the Unsung Citizen of Penticton Award. The Herald regrets the error.