Have You Met?

“She’s such a doll!” “She’s a wonderful person!” “I just love her!” These are the things you hear people say when you mention Susan Barnhill. People are speaking the truth about this “Earth Angel” who has such an affable nature. After meeting her, I too jumped on board the Susan Barnhill bandwagon.

Susan has lived in many places both in the United States and abroad because of her husband’s former job transfers; and the Barnhill’s moved about every two years. It wasn’t always easy on Susan’s family, but being the “Super Mom” that she is, Susan, along with her husband, Carl, did a fantastic job raising their two sons no matter where they lived. The “proof is in the pudding” because both sons are doing everything they can to give back to the communities they live in. Matt and Seth, now both adults, are often involved with charitable groups.

Susan has a humorous wit that makes you smile, and says in Erma Bombeck fashion: “We didn’t stay anywhere too long. During one of our moves, a mover picked up a sofa off the wooden floor and commented, ‘Gee, you don’t even have any dust bunnies under your furniture.’ I told him we hadn’t been here long enough for dust bunnies to accumulate.”

You can imagine how thrilled the Barnhill family was when they could make a permanent move to Colorado after Carl took a job with Coors in Golden.

Susan is one of the most reliable and faithful community volunteer leaders in town; and we can be sure that all of the organizations such as the Volunteers of America, the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, and AWARE consider it their good fortune when Susan Barnhill, on her angel wings, soared into their midst.

At this time, what is your involvement with the charitable organizations you support? Currently, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado; Board of Directors of Volunteers of America; The Guild of Volunteers of America member (and past president); and AWARE member (and past president).

What charitable event do you really look forward to attending each year? Do I have to pick one? Western Fantasy (Volunteers of America); Memories in the Making (Alzheimer’s Association); Memories Lost & Found (AWARE).

How did you become so passionate about Volunteers of America? When we moved here 11 years ago, the school my son attended required 35 hours of community service as a pre-requisite for graduation. He chose to serve meals at Theodora House, a shelter for homeless woman. Since he was not of legal driving age, I drove him and served meals with him. I was so impressed by the way the facility was operated, I checked out the organization – VOA – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot? Again, do I have to pick one? Lake Tomahawk, WI (spent summers there when the boys were growing up) and Naples, FL.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be? Finally Found - Dust Bunnies in Colorado!

Is there a magazine or publication you can’t live without? Golf for Women - if I keep reading the articles, it’s got to help – someday. Soon. Please!

What do you consider a priceless gift? Family – we are always there for each other.

What is something your parent’s taught you that you have never forgotten? A good work ethic. If you accept any job, do it right, do the best you can, or don’t do it at all.

Do you have a quote or saying that has helped guide you through life? “When in doubt, don’t.” Of course, when you are cleaning out the refrigerator, you can change it to, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

What is something you absolutely can’t live without? Chocolate! It makes me very happy.

Where is your focus these days? There are many days, lately, that I wonder the same thing myself. “Has anyone seen my focus????”

I love working with both Volunteers of America and the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. Both organizations have touched my heart, and I am proud of the work they do to help families in Colorado. I will be involved with both organizations as long as they need my help.

However, at this point in my life, I would have to say my main focus is with the Alzheimer’s Association. My Mom died from Alzheimer’s disease three years ago on Mother’s Day. Alzheimer’s is a dreadful, frightening and cruel disease that affects, not only the person with the disease, but their caregivers. (My sister suffered from caregiver stress). With 76,000,000 baby boomers approaching the age of greatest risk, the number of cases in Colorado alone is expected to climb 124 percent over the next 20 years (from 63,000 today).

This is going to have a huge impact, not only on the families in this state, but on our health care system, resources, and economics (caregiver absenteeism). As Board Chair, I feel I must devote my time and energies to this cause; to help the staff at the association institute the goals set forth in our strategic plan.

What is your greatest strength? Biceps – I have a great personal trainer. Seriously, my organizational skills – comes from moving every two years (before Colorado) while working and raising a family. It’s that multi-tasking thing.

What is your greatest weakness? Chocolate – that’s why I have a personal trainer.

How do you stay so motivated and committed? Hands-on involvement with those I am trying to serve. (“The joy of the Lord is my strength” – Nehemiah 8:10)

What are your favorite leisure time activities or hobbies? Golf – is that considered an oxymoron?

What is your biggest fear? That someone will give me a houseplant as a gift. Every time a plant enters the house, my husband and sons start singing “Another One Bites the Dust”.

What would you still like to learn how to do? Speak a foreign language. I’ve NEVER had an ear for languages. In high-school, I took three years of Latin because I knew I would never have to carry on a conversation with anyone in Latin, unless they came back from the dead.

What should we all be working on these days to make our country better for future generations? You want me to answer this question in a few sentences?

How do we get our young people interesting in charitable work and giving back to the community? Get them involved at a young age. The sense of accomplishment and joy they receive from helping others is something they won’t forget.

There are so many nonprofits in Colorado today that, unless there is a personal connection, many young adults find it difficult to know which one they want to put their time and money into supporting. Nonprofits have to realize they need to change their old “tried and true” events and have events tailored for the younger crowd.

Young adults, today, want to learn about the organization before they decide to volunteer – and they want to get something out of the events that they attend. Young Professionals Advisory Board at the Alzheimer’s Association. It is so much fun hearing their enthusiasm while brainstorming ideas. It makes me feel good knowing there are those in the next generation that will be there to take the lead.

What’s in the future for Susan Barnhill? My eight ball said: “Ask again later”.

How would you like to be remembered by future generations? Grandma would be good – or some cutesy name meaning the same thing.

Susan’s Charitable & Community Involvement: President of Homeowners Association (Illinois); American Women’s Club of The Hague (Netherlands), Secretary; Chairman, Christian Women’s Club (Stonecroft Ministries); President (1999-2001), The Guild of Volunteers of America; Volunteers of America, Board of Directors (1999 – present); AWARE, President (2002-2004); Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, Board of Directors (2002 – present).