Recipients of The Republic’s annual Woman of the Year award have come from different backgrounds, have experience in a variety of occupations and even represent different age groups. But one thing they have in common is a desire to help others and their community.
Annette Barnes, this year’s winner, is a perfect example. The 81-year-old Columbus resident is an active community volunteer who also is involved in ensuring residents’ human rights are not infringed.
Her personal experiences of suffering discrimination, such as being denied service at a St. Louis restaurant in the early 1960s, have impacted her life and how she chooses to help others because of her concern for social justice.
Barnes is a member of the Columbus Human Rights Commission, serving as secretary. The organization’s mission is to build and maintain an inclusive community. She also served on the ad hoc subcommittee that in 2015 recommended the city’s ordinance on protected classes be amended to include sexual orientation, gender identity, age and veterans.
She’s provided a voice for others in another way, too.
Barnes served as executive director of the Youth Advocacy Commission and as a guardian ad litem in the local juvenile justice system. She advocated for children whether it was best for them to stay in their homes or go to foster care, and suggest social service programs that could benefit them.
She volunteers at Mill Race Center, the organization that serves the local 50-plus population.
Barnes, a retired ordained minister, also helps people through her faith. She participates in St. Bartholomew Catholic Church’s bereavement ministry and is an appointed Columbus Police Department chaplain. Barnes also volunteers at Columbus Regional Hospital, such as in its cancer unit, and at local extended-care centers to provide comfort to people who are fighting for their lives or facing the end of their lives.
She also has taken steps to promote greater understanding, such as participating in Muslim-Christian dialogues locally to support learning about people of other faiths.
It’s evident that Barnes cares about people, and ensuring that they are loved and respected. She’s a benefit to our community and a great choice for Woman of the Year.