Oct. 21—WILKES-BARRE — During Charles Barber's 21-year tenure as President/CEO, the Luzerne Foundation became a leader in local philanthropy, giving out more than $170 million in grants and scholarships.
Barber recently retired after 21 years of exemplary service.
On Wednesday, the Luzerne Foundation honored Barber at an event at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre.
"Charles Barber took the Luzerne Foundation from an idea to its current role as the leader in philanthropy in Northeastern Pennsylvania" said David Pedri, current CEO/President of the Luzerne Foundation. "Over his 21 years of service, Charles worked to make our community better and, most importantly, he offered a helping hand to all those in need. His retirement is well-earned and his efforts will continue to shine."
Barber said he is humbled by the honor, calling his current status one of transition, not retirement. He said he and his wife sold their house in Kingston and moved into a new place in the former Citizens Bank Building at Market and Franklin streets.
"I'm still deciding what retirement will mean for me," Barber said. I'm still wager to talk to individuals and groups and friends and mentors. The world really is my oyster right now."
Like the Luzerne Foundation's motto, "Here for Good," Barber is as well.
"We're not finished yet," he said.
When Barber looks back at his 21 years leading the Luzerne Foundation, he said he gets a tremendous sense of gratification of knowing everything the foundation has done to help so many people in so many way.
Barber said the Luzerne Foundation has been a leader in charitable donation and for playing an integral in the establishment of several critical organizations like the Hazleton Integration Project, Dinners for Kids and Volunteers in Medicine.
"We've helped so many diverse programs across the community that play a critical role in helping people," Barber said. "And all of these were made possible through the strong partnerships that were established with key leaders."
And Barber added, "We always wish we could do more. The needs are so great and our resources are limited."
The Luzerne Foundation is about people wanting to help other people," he said. "It has been such a great honor to have been in a position to help so many people. It really has been a joy."
State Sen. John Yudichak presented Barber with a proclamation that was entered into the record of the State Senate. Yudichak served on the Luzerne Foundation Board of Directors for 16 years and he established two funds in honor of his parents.
"No other philanthropic organization has empowered more people to get involved and give back to the community like the Luzerne Foundation has," Yudichak said. "Charles Barber has been here from the beginning to assure that the foundation really is 'here for good.'"
In his speech, Barber wished successor Pedri well, saying, "I am sure many of the gifts will require a lot of legal expertise. But just as important is your broad knowledge and understanding of Luzerne County, its people, its needs, and the region as a whole. With you, the Foundation is in great hands, and you have the best and most diligent staff in Luzerne County."
Barber noted that when he took the job, he was "a complete newcomer" to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
"I have to credit some extraordinary people for introducing me to our community and its many complexities — Rusty Flack, Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, Wally Settler, and Frank Bevevino. As an aside, I must credit Daylene Burnside, my predecessor in 2000, with critical words of wisdom.
"The Luzerne Foundation is indeed 'Here for Good.' Use it, embrace it, become a part of it."
About Charles Barber
Barber was recently honored by Dinners for Kids. Information provided by the event organizers said, "When we think of Charles Barber, we are reminded of his passion for making a difference in our community. His vision, love for people, and willingness to 'go the extra mile' resulted in extraordinary growth at The Luzerne Foundation. We applaud his 21 years of service at The Luzerne Foundation, and we wish him much health and happiness in his retirement."
During his tenure, Barber established the Disaster Recovery Coalition of Luzerne County following the floods of September 2011. Today, this collaboration among dozens of charitable organizations makes disaster recovery far more efficient and effective.
Before leading The Luzerne Foundation, Barber spent 25-plus years in financial management with a concentration in charitable fund services.
He and his wife, Denny, are the parents of two adult sons.
Originally from a town near the banks of the Ohio River outside of Pittsburgh, Barber took a turn toward Luzerne County that reshaped his life and the lives of thousands here.
The growth of the Foundation during his tenure speaks volumes. In his first year as CEO and president, the organization had about $5 million in assets. He left it with nearly $32 million..
In 2014, after the Foundation created the Youth Advisory Committee that empowered teens to pick grant winners, Barber noted "You can just feel the passion in them when they talk about it."
Barber once sent a note to a Times Leader reporter reflecting on his time at the Luzerne Foundation.
He began by quoting billionaire Warren Buffet, who once said, "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.