After more than 22 years as the Executive Director of the Fannin County Children’s Center, Sandy Barber is retiring. Including her prior experience at North Texas Youth Connection, Barber has worked in the nonprofit and child welfare field for more than 31 years.
The Board of Directors and staff of the Children’s Center will be hosting a Retirement Party for Barber on Wednesday, July 5. All are welcome to join the celebration from 4:30 – 6:00 pm at the Roy Floyd Community Center at 1100 W. 5th in Bonham.
Barber’s family moved to Arlington, Texas when she was in sixth grade and she graduated from Martin High School. Six weeks after graduating from Austin College in Sherman, Texas she married her college sweetheart, Bill Barber. Together, they have three daughters, Jessica, Katie and Cassidy.
Barber said, “There have been LOTS of changes in the 22+ years I have been here at the Children’s Center. Growth is definitely tops on that list. When I started, we had 4 staff and an annual operating budget of about $145,000. We now have 9 staff and a budget of more than $900,000. We were located in an office space in which the rent was donated when I started. In 2003 we purchased, renovated and moved into our current facility. We currently have about 8 acres of land donated and we are working to raise the funds needed to build a new, larger facility.”
When Barber started, the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) was only about 18 months old in Fannin County and was considered a “developing center.” Over her time at the center, mental health services were added to the CAC. Other new services added during her tenure included the Rainbow Rooms (emergency clothing & resource closet) and child abuse prevention classes. The CASA and CAC programs expanded and evolved over the years to keep up with the growing population in our community as well as the changing state and federal standards for CASA and CAC. The annual Christmas and School Supply Drives also grew under her leadership thanks to generous donors.
“There have been many changes in technology too,” said Barber. “When I started, we had dial up internet, we did not have an agency website and social media was not even a thing. Grants were submitted by mail and monthly grant billing was submitted by fax.”
“There have been LOTS of challenges along the way too,” said Barber. “Some of those challenges have included the times we lost grants or had turnover with staff or partners. The increasing state and federal standards from both CASA and CAC have been challenging too. Juggling both CASA and CAC has also been part of the challenge at times. No matter what the challenges have been, I would say I mostly worked to meet them by collaborating with our staff, board, volunteers, partners, donors and other supporters. The nature of this work and our mission relies on a variety of folks coming together, giving and doing what they can, to make good things happen for kids from hard places.”
Barber said, “What I liked most about this job was definitely the difference we have made for hundreds of kids and families over the years. I have been blessed to be able to play a small part in getting abuse to stop, healing to begin and in some cases, justice to be granted. A close second would be the opportunity I had to help others in our community see how they too can make a difference for kids from hard places. Whether I was inviting folks to donate, recruiting volunteers or board members, hiring and training staff or teaching folks how to recognize and respond to suspected child abuse, it was energizing to me to figure out how I can connect others to be a part of our important mission. On the other hand, the thing I liked least was firing people. No matter how deserved it was, I have never liked doing it.”
When asked what she would miss most, Barber said, “The people. I will miss seeing kids skip down the hallway to go to their counseling sessions and the parties we had when kids got to go home or get adopted. I will miss working closely with the dedicated staff, volunteers, partners, donors and board members too.”
Barber has been honored with many awards over the years. In 2019, she won the Athena Leadership Award, which honors women in leadership and the Angels in Adoption Award, which included a trip to Washington DC. Texoma Council of Governments named her the Regional Citizen of the Year in 2015 and the Bonham Chamber named her the Citizen of the Year in 2021.
In 2011, she won the Texas CASA Go Give Award. “This was extra special to me because it recognized me for being a support and inspiration to my fellow CASA Executive Directors from across the state,” said Barber. Bonham ISD has also named her a “Friend of Education” three different times over the years, including this year.
Barber served terms on the boards of Texas CASA, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas as well as many local organizations. She was recently recognized for serving twenty years on the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee at the Texoma Council of Governments.
“It has truly been my honor and blessing to do this work for more than two decades,” said Barber. “Now it is time for me to hand the baton on to the next leader. I am really excited that Kim Skidmore has come back to the center to become our next leader. I am confident the center will be in good hands with her.”