2015 Person of the Year – Jake Barnes

Jake Barnes is chosen as 2015 Person of the Year

The Community Spirit is proud to announce that Amherst resident Jake Barnes has been chosen as the 2015 Person of the Year. Barnes is being honored for his many years of community involvement and volunteer service to more than a dozen different groups and organizations in the Tomorrow River area.

“Jake has lived in the Tomorrow River Community for over two decades, and in that time has become a valuable, perhaps indispensable, part of the community fabric,” wrote George Kraft in his letter nominating Barnes for the award.

“Jake pitches in with both his sweat and his smarts to help make this community run,” Kraft wrote. “How many times have we all seen his maroon-and- rust colored pick-up truck and its trailer on some mission of the day? Depending on that day, the mission could’ve been bringing his lawn tractor to the Standing Rocks County Park to give the high-school running course a final trim, bringing trail markers, cones, and sundry pieces of hardware to support some ski or running race, painting lines on soccer fields, or supporting the Tomorrow River annual clean-up.

"In fact, the Friends of the Tomorrow/Waupaca River schedule their cleanup every year around Jake’s availability, as he and his truck and trailer are indispensable.”

The nominating letter continued: “Jake’s smarts have also helped many a community institution. Jake is a business and self-admitted numbers guy, who believes that without a financial and progress plan, endeavors are often doomed. And so he has lent his organizational and financial acumen to guiding local organizations forward.”

Barnes has been involved in a wide range of activities and organizations over the years, but the majority of them involve children and youth. As Kraft points out in his letter, when praising other people’s work, Jake has often used the phrase, “There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to help a kid.”

“I’ve heard Jake utter these words when he is offering high praise for a friend or associate. It is an ideal by which he values others-- and an ideal that he has demonstrated over and over in his own pursuit of community service. In the long list of Jake’s community activities, you will note that many of them are youth oriented.”

The list of Barnes’s volunteer activities, as enumerated in Kraft’s nominating letter, includes:

  1. Tomorrow River Scholarship Foundation: board member and vice-president.
  2. Jensen Community Center: former board member and treasurer.
  3. Peace Lutheran Church: former treasurer. (According to Pastor Gretchen Anderson, “Jake comes to things with energy. He wants to create a plan for going forward, and then give it his all.”)
  4. Friends of the Tomorrow/Waupaca River: member, former board member, and clean-up day organizer.
  5. Iola Winter Sports Club Ski Team: coach and de facto business manager.
  6. Wisconsin Nordic Ski League: board member, former president. (In this role Jake worked with a state-wide team to rejuvenate the state championships.)
  7. Little Plover River Workgroup: Jake has worked as a conservation representative on the DNR workgroup trying to bring healthly flows back to the Little Plover River.
  8. River Alliance of Wisconsin: former board member.
  9. Jensen Center Youth Soccer Program: Jake took the excellent work of soccer league founders (Marge Tiry, Linda Chapin, and others) and continued its growth and success.
  10. Soccer as a high school sport: Jake’s work created a joint soccer team for Amherst, Iola, and Rosholt.
  11. Youth hunting: Jake has taken a number of youth for their first hunting experiences for turkey or deer.

“It is true that many community functions are thriving today because Jake got involved and stepped up,” Kraft concluded. For Barnes, volunteering is just part of his nature.“We’re very fortunate in the Amherst area to have an outstanding group of individuals who will pitch in when something comes along,” Barnes told the Spirit.

“Without people willing to step up, a lot of the organizations and programs I’ve been associated with would not have done what they’ve done.  It’s as simple as that!”

Barnes said he is particularly proud of being associated with the annual Standing Rocks Invite, a cross-country event held in late August each year. Barnes helped organize the event with Tom Fochs, who was the Amherst High School cross-country coach at the time, and Athletic Director Bill Schweitzer. “Maggie Woodside coined the name of the event, and here we are about eight years later still running the event,” Barnes said. “It’s a small cross-country meet with about seven or eight teams attending, but the kids really enjoy the course and have some better finishes because it is a smaller event.”

Barnes, himself, has a very active lifestyle and it is something he likes to promote for area youth. “Having been involved in running, biking, skiing and triathlons for many years, and generally being an active person, I just simply get a kick out of seeing our local youth getting off the couch and participating in some of these events,” he said. “They don’t have to win, or place in the top three, but just simply get out there and develop an enjoyment of being active.  I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen finish dead last in an event, only to become a pretty good runner or skier, as they became hooked on the sport.”

Barnes cited the Jensen Center Youth Soccer Program as another of his favorites. “Having previously coordinated the program, and still being active in it, I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see elementary and middle-school kids having a blast and developing a sense of teamwork at a young age,” Barnes said.  “But the real credit for the program really needs to go to the Jensen Center on this one,” he added.

Barnes and his wife, Kris, have lived in the Amherst area for more than two decades. The couple have three children: Emma, who is a sophomore at St. Michaels College, in Colchester, Vermont; Seth, who is a junior at Amherst High; and Peter, who is a freshman.

Barnes becomes the twelfth person to receive the Community Spirit’s “Person of the Year” award, an honor begun in 2004 to recognize area residents who go above and beyond to make the Tomorrow River area such a special place to live.

“Jake has been worthy of this honor for many years,” said Community Spirit editor and publisher Randy Clausen. “All I can say is it’s about time. We are so fortunate to have Jake and his family in our community."

Barnes joins an impressive list of previous winners of the award that includes:

  • Mark Olson in 2004;
  • Don Aylesworth in 2005;
  • Hans and Jane Suomi in 2006;
  • Rich Stuczynski in 2007,
  • Shelly Platten in 2008;
  • Janet Glodowski in 2009;
  • Ken and Barb Konkol in 2010;
  • Connie Pitt in 2011;
  • Aralda Bell in 2012;
  • Terry Anderson in 2013;
  • and Butch Sommers in 2014.

Editor’s Note:
The “Spirit” received many noteworthy nominations this year, and the decision was a challenging one. Everyone should feel free to re-submit nominees in 2016.

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