Cathy Barker will tell you she joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs almost 30 years ago because she was looking for a daughter.
“I got involved in Juniorettes and Girl Scouts many years ago because I’ve got all boys,” she says of her two children. “I had to adopt girls through community service.”
However, Barker, a nurse coordinator in nephrology, also joined the organization because she has a giver’s heart.
Barker was installed as the new president of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC) the first of June, capping her years of commitment and dedication to the organization that has become her second family.
“It’s definitely an honor to lead such a fantastic volunteer service organization,” says Barker, who is serving a two-year term.
There is no question in Barker’s mind that her decision to join AFWC all of those years ago has shaped her life in a positive way.
Her path to joining was an interesting one. A neighbor one day asked her if she wanted to be a part of a garden club.
“I’m just not a gardener,” Barker says with a laugh.
Her neighbor came back later and asked if she was interested in joining a service organization called the Shades Mountain Woman’s Club.
“She was barking up the right tree then,” Barker says.
So Barker joined and began a life that would eventually bring her to UAB by way of the AFWC.
A club member arranged a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the group and Barker was overcome by the experience. After her youngest son started kindergarten, she began pursuing her nursing degree at UAB. She’s been working here for 15 years.
“Because of my women’s club work I went to nursing school here,” she says.
As part of her service work, Barker began sponsoring the Pelham Juniorettes several years ago. The group meets once a month and does volunteer work at the Humane Society and a nursing home in Alabaster throughout the year.
“Working with these girls kind of gives you faith that the world is going to be OK,” she says of the group, which boasts 67 girls from the 10-12th grades.
It’s no coincidence then that Barker selected youth as the AFWC’s primary mission for her two-year term, choosing Alabama Youth Leadership Program.
The group is for high-school sophomores. Every high school in the state can select a representative to attend a leadership conference.
“We ask for not necessarily the leader of the class, but someone with leadership ability,” Barker says.
Barker demonstrates that in her personal life as well. Her work as a kidney disease researcher at UAB is especially important because kidney disease has affected her family. Barker’s brother, Ron Vick, has had two kidney transplants.
Her sister, Coleen Johnson, donated a kidney to him 15 years ago. Two years ago, Vick’s donated kidney began to fail. So, Barker was tested and determined to be a perfect match. She immediately decided to donate a kidney to him. It was another way for Barker to give back.
Barker is happy to report she, her brother and sister are doing well. And, she says, her commitment to AFWC is as strong as ever, adding that membership — 3,000 strong in Alabama — is open to any woman in the state.
Barker says her community service shouldn’t be looked upon as noble. She says it’s nothing more than a great chance to give back what she has been given.
“I think community service is just a price we pay for the privilege of living on this Earth,” she says. “I’ve had so many opportunities, it only seems fair to try and afford those opportunities to others.”