Suzanne Barkley is a third-generation Rotarian – her dad and both grandfathers were members. So it’s no surprise that when she moved to Bailey from Chicago 14 years ago, one of her first decisions was to join the Conifer Rotary.
As a Rotarian, she acts both locally and globally. The sponsor of Rotary’s Interact Club at Fitzsimmons Middle School in Bailey, Suzanne has worked with the students to raise funds for two protected spring wells in Kenya. This year, the students are not only fundraising, but also helping to design a playground for handicapped children in Kenya, working with Carol Carper. “It’s teaching them about math and science as well as giving,” Suzanne says, as the students are designing a slide for kids who can’t climb a ladder. Suzanne personally sponsors a family in Kenya with two children.
In addition to the club at Fitzsimmons, Suzanne works with the Interact clubs at West Jeff Middle and Conifer High School, where the high school students have visited Nepal with Rotary.
Locally, Suzanne is proud that the Conifer Rotary can raise scholarship money for Platte Canyon and Conifer students. Rotary sponsors 12 middle and high school students to participate in Rotary Youth Leadership Awards – a weeklong summer leadership camp in Colorado.
Suzanne, with friend and fellow Rotarian Charlotte Wytias, started the Conifer Rotary Backpack program, which now provides nutritious, easy-to-prepare food for the weekend to 160 children in our mountain community. She and Charlotte also helped bring “Buddy Benches” to five area elementary and middle schools. The Buddy Bench is a simple idea, originally from Germany, to make all kids feel welcome at school and to encourage friendship. The brightly painted benches are located in the school playground, and kids who are lonely or upset can sit there during recess. All students are encouraged to be aware and invite kids who are sitting on the bench to join them in play.”We thought the kids wouldn’t be brave enough to use them, but they do,” Suzanne says.
In addition to her work with the schools, Suzanne is on the Rotary’s committee for the Home and Garden Show, which will be held April 22 and 23 at Conifer High School this year. She has served for many years on the committee for the St. Paddy’s Day dinner, a fundraiser for Rotary.
“Once in awhile, I like to do hands-on activities,” Suzanne said, explaining why she helped paint the living and dining rooms at the Peace Shelter and helps organize the Peace Shelter boutique.
Suzanne first joined Rotary in Chicago in 1995, only the second woman in her club. Through that club, she had the chance to travel around the world, including a 28-day medical mission to Guyana and Brazil and several trips to Africa, one of which helped women in Uganda with micro-lending to start their own businesses.
When she’s not volunteering for Rotary, Suzanne spends much of her time with her family; two of her three children and all four grandchildren live locally. She first moved to Colorado to help her daughter, Loren, and son-in-law, Ivan, who at the time owned the Meadow Creek Bed and Breakfast. In a three-month period, Suzanne sold her house and business in Chicago and bought the only house she looked at in Bailey. “I’ve never looked back,” Suzanne said.
A native of Southern California, Suzanne still goes back regularly to visit her parents, who are in their late 90s and recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
“I love color and fabrics, and I can’t stay away from design,” Suzanne says. After selling her Chicago firm, she opened a company in Colorado, Meadow Creek Design, where she brings her creativity to bear in both residential and commercial spaces. She confesses that she especially enjoys getting people in Colorado” to expand beyond the moose and elk theme.” One of her clients hired her to design the interior of their garage in Highlands Ranch. They were so pleased that they asked her to redo their entire home and are now are having her work her magic in a used motor home they purchased.
When she’s not volunteering or working, Suzanne loves to snowshoe and hike with her 125-pound yellow lab, Gunnar. She also is a regular at the gym and takes tai chi classes. “I love to have parties, and I tell guests to bring their dogs. Often we have more dogs than people,” she says.
The consummate community volunteer, Suzanne thrives on her involvement. “Pretty much everything I do, I do for fun,” she says.