Dr. Marilyn Barr was recently named the recipient of Fort Smith Noon Exchange (FSNE) Club’s prestigious Book of Golden Deeds Award. The honor was presented at the organization’s 77th annual Golden Deeds Banquet held March 1 at The Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown in Fort Smith.
Recognizing a worthy person or group that continuously donates time, talent, and energy to help those in need, the award honors local volunteers for their good deeds and contributions to the community. FSNE names an honoree each year, based on nominations sent in by its membership and from the community. The Book of Golden Deeds is the National Exchange Club’s longest running program, having begun in Indiana in 1919. FSNE Club presented its first award in 1942.
As per tradition, the recipient’s name was kept secret until the event. Exchangite Judith Hansen made her way to the stage to share about the then unnamed recipient’s dedication to her profession and to people in need. “My friend has a philosophy of quiet service. She would be happy if all her kindnesses and Golden Deeds took place far from public view.”
A Fort Smith native, Barr began her post-college career as an educator at a Lutheran school out west, before teaching at Department of Defense schools in Germany. “Then when it seemed her life trajectory was set, she turned everything on its head by attending medical school and setting up a practice in Fort Smith,” shared Hansen.
Barr served many patients throughout her medical career and although now retired, she has kept her license active. She often assists those in her church congregation, performs physicals on a volunteer basis for the Girl Scouts, and worked as a medical officer for the True Grit bike ride that benefits the Community Serves Clearinghouse. When disaster struck New Orleans in 2005, Barr headed south. Donning a hazmat suit and breathing apparatus, she encountered grim conditions while providing medical care for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Hansen also shared about Barr’s many unofficial service roles. “She checks in regularly with a group of elderly parishioners, taking them to appointments, running errands for them, and just making sure they don’t become cut off from the world. She is a wonderful example for the younger generation of what it means to be a servant in Christ to others.”
Following Hansen’s remarks, a very surprised Barr was brought onstage to receive the award. Her humility was evident. “It’s not service, it is just what you do.” Sebastian County Judge David Hudson and Fort Smith Mayor George McGill read proclamations in Barr’s honor, further highlighting her contributions to her fellow man. “She puts her beliefs into action,” noted McGill. Hudson added, “Dr. Barr is a shining example of the spirit of volunteerism.”
In addition to the awards announcement, the banquet included a look back on past winners. Details about the recipients from 25, 50 and 75 years ago were read aloud during the program by FSNE Past President Scott Monroe. FSNE also honored Past Presidents and Golden Deeds winners who died in the last 12 months. Past honorees that were in attendance were recognized, as were family and friends who attended on behalf of previous recipients.
“The Book of Golden Deeds Award program exemplifies Exchange Club’s beliefs,” said FSNE President Melissa Curry. “Our organization counts it a privilege to recognize the amazing men and women who have made our region a better place for others. We are proud to add Dr. Barr’s name to this distinguished list of leaders and community-minded volunteers.”
Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club is a civic organization comprised of men and women working together to make the community a better place to live. This is accomplished through programs of service including Americanism, community service, youth programs, and the organization’s national project, the prevention of child abuse. Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club has supported the region for more than 90 years and is a proud affiliate of the National Exchange Club. Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club is one of the largest of the nearly 800 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico. The group meets every Friday at noon at The Hall at Taliano’s in Fort Smith.