By now we’ve likely all had it up to here with Millenium stories, covers proclaiming this or that person is the musician, politician, athlete, philanthropist, teacher, writer etc of the century. And it seems to me a ridiculous measurement to say that any one person is the most significant. How, unless you’ve been an adult for the past 100 years, could you measure fairly anyone’s contribution against that of another.

I’ve been in Barrie for 30 years now, a fraction of this community’s history, and while I have a strong sense of those who’ve made significant contributions locally, that’s only a 30 year period.

So... rather than take us through who’s done what with what, I’d like to turn my thoughts this week to the quiet ones... those people in our community who, without the blare of a brass band, just quietly go about making a difference.

Karen Koorrnneef, for instance. Karen is new to Barrie. Her professional commitment is to children with autism. Her background is working with pre-school autistic children. Her new business, Special Kidz Day Care Centre, at Yonge and Little is integrating autistic youngsters with others. Karen’s day care offers full programs and temporary relief for parents of autistic children whose demands are often exhausting.

Roberta Beecroft, for instance. Roberta gives so freely of her time to work with individuals, families and youngsters struggling with life’s issues. As a public speaker, as a counsellor, as a caring member of her community, Roberta gives quietly.

Our community is enriched by the efforts of Stan Howe and Doug Crawford, news photographers who are diligent in using their camera skill and their empathy to bring us the people whose stories find their way onto our news pages. Unsung heroes who grapple with the loss of a fire, the quiet at a cenotaph, the brilliance of a child’s face during an achievement. They make a difference.

Joan Jarvis makes a difference. Three years ago Joan saw a terrible need for those among us who live in tiny rooms without cooking fracilities, those who sleep in window wells, or at children’s playgrounds... our borderline residents who get lost in everyday life. Joan has used her quiet, loving ways to herald an army of caring people who are now providing dinner five nights a week to over 65 people and overnight accommodation and breakfast for another 10-20 people. It’s taken a tremendous coordination of people-churches-food and it’s taken focus and tenacity.

The clients of Barrie and Distric t Association for People With Special Needs make a difference. On a daily basis, they ‘pick up’ downtown, ridding our commercial area of trash dropped by others. Their cheerful presence is priceless in our community.

There are so many people who enrich this community so that it is the jewel we know it to be. As we start not only a new year, a new decade, a new century, and a new millenium, it’s fitting, I think, to reflect on what we have rather than what we have not. We can build on what we have. We can only complain about what we have not.

It’s been a fascinating time to live in our history. The last half of the 1900’s have hurtled us technologically in a direction we could never have imagined a century ago. The micro chip and its impacts on our lives has been the focus of millions of words in the past decade. I can only wonder what’s ahead for the next generation to embrace and soar with... my younger friends will agree that I’m certainly challenged with the tools of today. They have no idea how far I’ve come!

And now, I want to say thank you to those among us who stay focussed on their larger goals, and who make a difference. Thanks, Karen. Thanks, Roberta. Thanks, Joan. Thanks Stan and Doug. And thank you Eileen Hankin for 30 years ago having the vision to form the Barrie and District Association for People With Special Needs.

Bless you.

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