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I am Barbara Byram

I am a seasonal employee of the National Park Service and a 14-year resident of Levy County, sharing a home near Goethe State Forest with my disabled sister. Before moving here, I lived on Hawai'i Island and owned a small business consisting of clothing design and short-run manufacture for wholesale as well as a retail fabrics store. I was proud to be one of the very few retailers offering employees paid holidays and sick days as well starting pay well above the minimum wage.

I was born and raised in Chicago but spent all my summers growing up on my grandparents' farm in Southwest Iowa, from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s. After high school, I worked full-time and eventually enrolled at a private Lutheran college in Kenosha, Wisconsin where I studied history, languages, and business management.

After college, life took me to various places, from the Caribbean, to San Francisco, to Albuquerque before finally settling down on Hawai'i Island in a rural area. Having developed a love of the great outdoors from my summers in Iowa, I became an avid gardener and solo wilderness backpacker. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively, experiencing different cultures and the natural beauty of several parts of the world. Most memorable was a summer-long walking and camping trip in France and Germany, visiting some of the areas where my father fought in WWII.

I am proud to be a lifelong volunteer, taking on community work at all levels, from manual labor to executive functions. I have performed trails maintenance and rebuilt boardwalks in national parks; taught sewing, quilting and sewing machine maintenance; answered phones, stuffed envelopes, and done bookkeeping for various organizations; served as head of publicity and promotion for a small musical group; done fundraising and grant writing for a community band; and served as assistant executive director to a senior drum and bugle corps. Currently, I give my time teaching crafts to seniors.

Volunteer work has enriched my life on a personal level and reinforced the ideas about community taught to me many decades ago. Whether my work centered on amateur musicians, seniors, the unemployed, environmental health, or a range of other specific groups or issues, it brought home to me the ability of people with vastly different viewpoints to come together and solve common problems—or simply make the life of someone else more tolerable. The feeling of having a purpose in life is matched by the joy in spending time with other people I may not have otherwise gotten a chance to know.

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