© Guardian photo by Jim Day
Nancy Barrett of Mermaid has been the driving force behind a campaign that has raised more than $1.7 million for the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry over the past 24 years.
It was just an idea Nancy Barrett had.
Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, to start a fundraiser for the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry that would make an angel out of each donor?
For $52, a mere buck a week, membership in this caring philanthropic club could be secured. Money raised would go to help the ministry, which was established in 1984, operate its soup kitchen and food bank in Charlottetown.
Barrett pitched the idea to the board. They bit.
Her job, however, did not end there. She was asked to take charge of the project.
Barrett felt if the pilot went well, the fundraiser should continue.
The first year, the campaign raised $39,220. That result was more than encouraging enough to want to give The Upper Room Angels another go.
Second year: the fundraising tally climbed to $52,040. This Angels idea was really taking flight. Barrett was thrilled to be on to a good thing for a great cause.
She kept at it year after year after year.
With meticulous care, she prepared each campaign. She advertised the annual fundraiser. She placed announcements. She issued news releases and newsletters. She updated the website. She organized all the mailing material.
And after each successful campaign, she sent a thank-you letter and a tax receipt to each angel.
The preparation of each campaign comes easy to Barrett.
“I just do it,’’ she says. “I don’t count the hours...it’s a lot of hours.’’
Oh, but what a payoff.
As Barrett readies to launch her 25th annual fund-raising campaign of The Upper Room Angels, she can take great pride in the $1,730,062 her initiative has raised to date.
First, it is worth noting she is not the least bit interested in having the spotlight shone on her. Keep the focus on the campaign, she urges.
Still, being the main force behind a campaign that likely will top the $2 million mark within the next four years is cause for celebration, not to mention a hearty pat on the back.
“I feel that it was well worth the work and I know that it is going to a good place,’’ says Barrett.
Mike MacDonald, manager of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, does not hold back praise for the tireless fundraiser.
“She’s an amazing person,’’ he says. “She’s involved with the Angels (campaign) and the Upper Room for all the right reasons. She is never looking for any recognition whatsoever.’’
MacDonald credits Barrett’s successful combination of talent, organization and compassion with making The Upper Room Angels the single largest annual fundraiser for the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry.
“It really enables us to continue many of our programs,’’ he says. “She’s one of those people who has the passion and the desire to help people but is also a very organized and skilled person.’’
Barrett says she is discouraged by the high demand that continues to exist for the food bank and the soup kitchen.
Last year, 49,641 meals were served in the soup kitchen, an increase of 8.5 percent from the previous year.
Over at the food bank in 2012, food sufficient to prepare the equivalent of 212,217 meals was distributed.
From time to time, Barrett will sit with people who are receiving a free meal at the soup kitchen.
“Each time they have their own story and I feel bad for them,’’ she says.
Barrett has enjoyed a comfortable life herself.
She was born and raised in New York, where she went on to work as an assistant unit controller. The retail business also led her to meet her future husband, Hinman Barrett, who died three years ago.
The couple moved from New York to Toronto in 1997, where Hinman held good positions with Tip Top Tailors. The pair moved to P.E.I. in 1984 to enjoy retirement.
Barrett likes to tend to her garden (“when,’’ she notes, “the mosquitoes don’t bother me’’) on a large, beautiful waterfront property in Mermaid. She also likes to read, knit and crochet.
Barrett has a son, James, a graphic designer living in Toronto.
After a quarter of a century as the one-woman fundraising machine behind The Upper Room Angels, the 81-year-old Barrett is ready to pass the torch. She is looking for a person who is willing and able to take over managing the successful, annual campaign.
For now, though, her full attention is on getting ready for the traditional Labour Day launch of the campaign.
She will be looking to many Islanders once again to renew their membership or become a first-time angel by sending a $52 cheque or money order made out to The Upper Room Angels and mailed to: The Upper Room Angels, c/o URHM Food Bank, 33 Belmont Street, Charlottetown, PE, C1A5G9.