Unsung Heroes: Barbie Butz’s passion for service benefits us all

June 19, 2010 

Barbie Butz (pronounced “Boots”) says she has a “non-profit personality.” A glance at a single-spaced page listing organizations she’s served through the years underscores that. Others who know her readily agree.

Joanne Main, president of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, called Barbie a “tireless worker” for the community, adding that Barbie “does it with honey. She respects people and is kind … you just want to follow her.”

We’ll go out on a limb and say that nearly every civic or charity achievement in Atascadero over the last 25 years was accomplished in part through Barbie’s efforts: as parks and recreation commissioner and key player in opening the city’s sole youth center, in furnishing the Pavilion on the Lake, in chairing the Atascadero Wine Festival to support renovation of the Charles Paddock Zoo; and serving on the boards of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, the Atascadero Youth Task Force and the Colony Days committee — to name just a few.

“I think it’s in your genes,” said Barbie, an elegant 74-year-old, of her penchant for service. Barbie’s mother was a PTA president; her father started a baseball little league.

When Barbie timed out as board member of the North County Women’s Shelter, she formed “Friends of the North County Women’s Shelter” to continue her support. She also has served on the boards of countywide agencies like Court Appointed Special Advocates; and the Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County, through which she helped found Operation School Bell to provide needy children with clothing for school.

“Some people call me an ‘advocate for youth’ … my husband calls me ‘too busy,’ ” she jokes. A handwritten schedule on a folded yellow paper listed 12 meetings just last week.

“I take it day by day,” added the mother of three and grandmother of 12, saying that she has always made time for family.

Perhaps more impressive than Barbie’s tenacity and dedication to her community is the humility and charm with which she speaks of her accomplishments: “You just don’t do things alone. You can never take all the credit.”

As a leader, she says, she simply uses her skills to bring out the best in others.

Barbie writes a weekly column “Around About Atascadero” for the Atascadero News, has kissed a pig to raise money for CASA, and recently danced in Atascadero’s “Dancing with our Stars” to support the library expansion fund. But this local luminary was surprised and humbled last week when, while “studying a roast” at the Atascadero Vons meat counter, a woman admiringly inquired, “Are you Barbie?!” They went on to chat about Barbie’s Atascadero News column.

Since moving to Atascadero in 1980, where she taught English, Barbie has shown what it means to truly serve a community. And she shows no signs of stopping. She wants Atascadero to have a community pool and a downtown with a clearer identity; she networks on Facebook; and she is wearing a pink flamingo pin on her lapel to promote the Atascadero Wine Festival next Saturday to benefit the zoo.

Barbie’s parents would be proud. The Tribune certainly is. For turning her life into a model of selfless community service, Barbie Butz is June’s unsung hero.

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