Inspirational volunteer celebrates 95th birthday
Published 9:05 am Thursday, March 24, 2016
A pilot, sailor, mother and volunteer, Barbara Fraser celebrated her 95th birthday Wednesday with fellow volunteers at Assistance Resource Ministries (ARM).
“She’s an inspiration to us all,” her son-in-law and ARM Board Chair Tim Ross said. “I’ve seen a lot of folks retire and turn inwardly, but for her, it’s meant looking for ways to give back to the community. She’s an inspiration to me.”
Fraser moved to Elizabethton after raising five kids with her husband, a former flight instructor. He taught her to fly, and she later became a pilot. The two repaired planes for naval cadets and trained them to fly as well. After that, she said they went sailing and settled to raise a family.
After telling about how her brother brought back Great Danes and boxers from Germany during the onset of World War II, she interrupted herself, saying she loves to talk.
“I’ve lived through some weird experiences in my life,” she added.
And she continues to live a colorful and healthful life, driving herself to ARM to volunteer twice weekly with no plans of stopping.
ARM has existed for 25 years, and when asked how long she has volunteered with the organization, Fraser humored everyone answering 84 years, then said it has probably been 12 years. She plans to continue indefinitely.
With so many agencies that seek to meet community needs, she said she donates her time to ARM because it has a singular purpose: to help people.
“They give to people who need it, where quite often, organizations give just to make an image for themselves,” Fraser said. “[People at ARM] don’t care about that; they care that people get fed and clothed.”
Ross said volunteers like Fraser are the backbone of the organization. ARM feeds 700 to 1,000 people monthly as well as managing a backpack food program in county schools and assisting residents with utilities. They do this under the leadership of one part-time director, Nikki Jones, and through the work of a crew of volunteers like Fraser.
Volunteers are always needed, Ross said, and they can use anyone with interest. Fraser greets visitors and checks them in, while others organize incoming food, sort boxes and pickup donations from local grocers. They can accommodate any schedule between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and have a playroom for kids if parents want to volunteer.
“We have a good crew of long-term volunteers, which shows it’s a family environment,” said Ross. “It’s fun to work with a group of people that have community in their hearts, but also enjoy working with people.”
Those interested in volunteering should call 423-542-0919 or stop by the ARM office at 714 W. C St.