January Volunteer Spotlight: Rebecca Barnes
We owe much of our success to those who volunteer for us. NPAF volunteers are dedicated, passionate people committed to improving the quality of life for patients and families living with a diagnosed condition. They are current and former patients, caregivers, health care professionals and others who work at the local, regional and national levels to help us advance person-centered care.
To show our appreciation, we created the Volunteer Spotlight series to feature one of our amazing volunteers each month. This month, we are thrilled to recognize Rebecca “Becky” Barnes of Pikeville, KY. Becky has been a dedicated volunteer with NPAF for over a decade. She is a part of NPAF’s Advisory Group of volunteers, and has done so much in her community, especially over the past year, to help people in need. Her advocacy work was also recently featured on Episode 3 of our Advocates in Action podcast. Read on to learn more about Becky:
Describe the advocacy work that you’re doing in your community and what motivated you to start.
In the beginning of the pandemic, all of us in my community—much like everywhere else—we did not know what to expect. A lot of people lost their jobs and their businesses. That in turn meant losing income, losing insurance, not having enough food. At that time, I was unemployed going through the state unemployment appeals process. It was because of that process that I gained enough knowledge to help others in the area. I got on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media reaching out to the community and even assisted in other states. I was grateful when the people I assisted received the large retroactive pay so that they could pay back rent, mortgage, and bills.
I created a Facebook group recently where I discuss all the unemployment updates and help people navigate how to file, refile and update claims. During this time, I have reached out to my Kentucky Representative Andy Barr about the issues with our unemployment system as well as my ideas and thoughts of getting our homeless community signed up for the stimulus checks.
Throughout the pandemic and during #GetCovered, I also assisted with getting people signed up on healthcare.gov and explained to them how each type of health insurance works and how the different levels would affect their payments now and later. I also assisted with getting people signed up for the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) food benefits.
I have been working with another girl in the community—she and her husband are retired veterans. They have set up their garage as a makeshift food pantry for people in need in our community. I saw the need for people who have no access to ways to cook the food or store the food and helped cook warm meals in my kitchen and drove them to the people in need. I have been networking to help people find what they need during this difficult time.
What advice would you give to other volunteers who would like to do something similar?
Just go for it! I feel like if you have a calling on your heart, you should follow it! You can work with other people to network and just look for what is needed in your community and how you can help others. Even if you help one person, it will mean the world to that one person.
Since you’ve been a volunteer with NPAF, what are some of the things you are most proud of?
There have been changes over the last decade or so, but what we all have in common is an inner want and need to help other people. Together we can do so much!
In 2005, I lost my only sibling. My life will never be the same. But through NPAF, I have been able to take that pain and put it to use. I see my sister in every single person that I help, in every bill I help get signed, with every friendship that I make.
I was able to help get the oral parity bill passed in Kentucky, I believe it was 2013. I went to Frankfort, KY and spoke with insurance agents to discuss why this bill was so important to us. It passed and I felt great knowing that I was a part of a bill that took some weight off of people that were going through so much. In 2015, I went to Washington, DC and met with my Senators and Representative and was instrumental in securing Representative Barr to champion the Medical Debt Relief Act.
And my “Kentucky Sister”, Donna Guinn, is not with us now. Even though we didn’t live close together, she was always there for a text or a phone call. She made me laugh and she gave me strength. I find it difficult to think about not going forward with her, but then I just look up and know, and feel her with all of us. I remember being nervous with my meeting with Mitch McConnell. She kept telling me, “Go. Go. You can do it!” And those words have stayed with me. I will keep going. I will keep doing this. I see Donna in all of us. Every hug she gave, every laugh, every stern look—All of it!
I am blessed and proud to be here with NPAF through this journey. Perhaps, just perhaps, we were made for a time such as this.
Rebecca Barnes is a NPAF volunteer and resident of Kentucky.