Local News

Community service nothing new for chamber president

Liz Barber, president of the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce, was involved in the community at an early age.

“My parents were always involved with things, and they taught me that it was important to help out whenever possible,” she said.

As early as 8 years old, she remembers being a volunteer at the downtown Sebring Chamber of Commerce office. She would greet visitors, help with computer-related tasks and assist with copying or other office duties.

Friends and family say she volunteered for many community events in the Sebring and Avon Park area for many years before heading off to Deland for college, earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, with minors in management and marketing.

Barber returned to the area after graduation and began helping out with chamber events, hosting luncheons and mixers with area organizations. After nearly four years of helping with hundreds of events and fundraisers, Barber was offered a position on the board of directors for the Sebring Chamber of Commerce.

Volunteering is a familiar concept to Barber and her family. Years ago, her parents would bring a wood chipper and set up a mulching station after Christmas.

“Sometimes I’d go into the dumpster we had set up and bag up the mulch to send home with people who could use it,” she said.

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Married to her high school sweetheart since 2008, Barber said they love to entertain when possible. They also enjoy traveling and cruising.

The most exhilarating experience Barber recalls occurred while snorkeling in Grand Cayman.

“We were out there in the open water snorkeling with schools of stingrays — they weren’t de-barbed, and there were multiple generations all coming in close around us,” she said.

The excursion provided treats for anyone interested in feeding the stingrays and Barber said “they seemed to like what looked like a dog biscuit treat the best.”

In addition to her chamber responsibilities, Barber also helps coordinate volunteer teachers for the local Junior Achievement program with the Sebring middle and high schools.

A total of 15 classes are offered, taught one day per week, and are incorporated into the existing school curriculum over a six-week period. Barber strongly believes in the program because the students learn financial literacy, the concept of entrepreneurship and the importance of being a productive citizen.

“We teach the students about budgeting their money and the confidence that they can try anything in life, whether that is opening a business or going to college,” she said.

Barber is also a vice president with Heartland Young Professionals.

Johanna Johnston, president of the organization, worked closely with Barber and Sebring officials to produce the Sebring Christmas parade.

“She was my right hand,” said Johnston, “and I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Johnston has known Barber for a long time and knows that Barber feels a deep commitment to Highlands County.

“She’s been in this community for many, many years,” she said, “and is constantly volunteering for everything, always doing a bang-up job at what she does.”

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Geri Canale, Barber’s mother, laughs as she remembers “when she was little, I was always dragging her with me. She helped paint the women’s’ shelter, helped with Christmas tree recycling and worked on a lot of Habitat for Humanity projects.”

Long before she donned painting and construction gear, 4-year-old Barber competed and won the grand prize as Little Miss USA, a national level pageant.

She was awarded a key to the City of Naples after winning a countywide contest there.

Her mother also remembered a number of times when Barber “really likes to have fun, singing at some local events, airshows, even Carnegie Hall.”

One of her favorite activities highlights her fun and youthful spirit ­— she’s an expert in the game of Slip ’N Slide.