Working as a reporter puts you in contact with a lot of people who are passionate about what they do. Mary Barr is definitely one of those people.
Barr is the outgoing executive director of Communities In Schools of Greater Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that serves impoverished and at-risk students and their families in eight area school districts.
In 2012, CIS served 7,000 children on a total budget of $2.8 million. The organization provides staff on school campuses, and offers services ranging from academic counseling to providing school supplies, clothing and even food to the neediest of the area’s students.
Working for a nonprofit organization is not easy. The hours are long, the pay is low and budgets are always tight. Even after taking on all those challenges for 15 years as CIS’s executive director, the pride was clear in Barr’s voice as she talked about the work the organization has done in that time.
“I think everyone in this organization does what they do, and do it well, because they believe in what we do,” Barr said. “I feel very blessed that I was able to remove the obstacles and let my talented staff get in there and do what they were trained to do.”
My conversations with Barr about her work nearly always turn into conversations about her staff and the children they serve. She recalled efforts to assist the families who were evacuated to Killeen from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. CIS set up an emergency center to help the victims find support and resources.
“Our staff came in and worked 18-hour days for two days in a row serving thousands of people,” Barr said. “They saw people in need that were hurting and they wanted to help. I think back on those two days and lives that were truly changed in those two days and it really brings a tear to my eyes … there have been many, moments like that.”
Even though Barr is moving on from Communities In Schools, the organization will continue to serve Central Texas Students, with former director of development Michael Dewees taking over as executive director next year.
No matter what Barr does next, it is clear that her work at CIS left as much of an impression on her as the organization’s works have left on the students and families it helps each year.
“It has really been a joy and a blessing,” Barr said.