Barbara Midgarden Marks – Secretary/Treasurer
When Barbara Midgarden Marks was asked to serve on the board of directors for the United Way of West Central Minnesota, she brought with her a vision, dedication, and work ethic that is just as valuable today as it was when she began. Early on, she took careful notes and contributed in meetings, as well as providing insight that would be greatly helpful in guiding the organization through an unprecedented time. Since those early days, Barbara has taken on an even larger role, and currently, she serves as the treasurer/secretary for the United Way.
Barbara first was introduced to the United Way and the board of directors by participating in a community review day. This is a day when the board, along with members of the community go out and meet directly with the non-profit organizations who are seeking funding from the United Way. This allows the participants to understand the heart and soul of our community’s organizations, and they have a direct impact on how available funding is distributed best to align with our mission and vision, and whether it impacts one of our three areas of focus; education, health, and basic needs.
She found the review day to be incredibly impactful and was touched by seeing so many people working in the community to both assess and meet needs. The ability to see, and have a voice in how funding is distributed locally to make the biggest impact possible is a key reason to serve as part of the United Way, and it certainly paved the way for Barbara’s involvement on the board. In addition, Barbara was able to witness how her feedback during the review day was not only listened to and appreciated but put into practice and valued. She felt a true spirit of teamwork and togetherness in service to individuals and families across the region.
Barbara has been in the area for over twenty-five years. For nineteen years, she resided in the community of Bird Island, MN, and the last few on the family farm outside Olivia, MN. She is employed in Willmar, MN, and her two children have attended BOLD public schools, which includes Bird Island, Olivia, and Lake Lillian, MN. Because of this variety, she is poised to be a voice for several communities within our service area. This allows for her to help bridge the gaps and contribute to the entire area. Barbara views her role with the United Way as being a valuable representative for several communities in the area. And she works exceptionally hard to do just that. Barbara is proud to serve, as she believes strongly that one’s endeavors must not only be beneficial to one’s self but to the community as a whole.
The hard work she does put in is reflective of her upbringing. Born in raised in northeastern North Dakota, she was raised in a manner that demonstrates the importance and value of community involvement and volunteering and views those activities as a responsibility of all citizens as they are able. While in her twenties, she came to the area to participate in a friend’s wedding. That led to the bride introducing Barbara to her brother. The two have been together ever since, and they’ve never left. Having lived and raised a family here for many years, our area is fortunate to have fully adopted her as one of our own.
Barbara creates much of her joy through creative endeavors, and in her free time enjoys activities such as painting, photography, cooking, and baking bread. That natural creativity within her has also come to serve the United Way and its programs. In addition, having board members from a variety of industries and endeavors enriches the board as a whole. Barbara works for Engan Associates Architects in downtown Willmar and is heavily active in the construction field.
Barbara also brings wisdom and tenacity to find better solutions to the team that has proven itself time and time again. Barbara unashamedly challenges ideas and thought processes as she believes by doing so, will provide a fuller picture for not only herself but everyone on the board. Doing so creates discussions and ideas which have been critical for many important United Way decisions. She is naturally skilled at finding better solutions and looks to figure out the right way to do something, rather than merely the way things have always been done. She is a change leader in a time when organizations and businesses must adapt to survive and thrive. Barbara is currently serving in the second year of her second term. She loves the United Way model because of how it can reach so many, and her service to our community will not end, it may just look a bit different.
Barbara Marks is a trusted and valued member of our board and we celebrate her contributions over the years and thank her in advance for her service in the years to come. Barbara believes in four tenants that not only apply to the United Way of West Central Minnesota but in life in general. First, change is not bad, it’s all about how you respond to it. It is best to look at all sides of an issue, and then make a decision based on the facts. She hopes that she is fair in all of her roles, but understands that fair does not necessarily mean equal. And lastly, that like the United Way, we all must work together to provide access to information and opportunities that will help lift others up and give those in need a chance to thrive.
All of our United Way of West Central Minnesota team is intensely focused on our local communities and the mission of fulfilling needs to create better lives and livelihoods for our neighbors and friends who need a hand-up the most. As critical as our board may be, we depend on those community members who volunteer their time or provide funding and resources to make a larger impact. If you seek a way to make a true difference in your community, we invite you to consider the United Way. Whether you can help a little or a lot, it is crucial to making an incredible difference in the lives of others.