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Barney Larry - One in a Million

Barney Larry - One in a Million

One in a Million
Barney Larry Calls it a Career
By Dwain Hebda

In 1977, Barney Larry arrived in Mountain Home to lead the music ministry at First Baptist Church. The community has been singing the praises of the Illinois native ever since. Larry, who for the past 23 years has served as Executive Director for the Baxter Health Foundation and Vice President of Business Development at Baxter Health, has been at the forefront of development, helping the hospital grow exponentially. His efforts have funded numerous remodels throughout the hospital, purchased state-of-the-art equipment, expanded into a network of clinics serving nearby communities and bankrolled Baxter Health’s four Community Health Education and Support Houses which provide programs and services free of charge.

Today, virtually every patient treated through Baxter Health is impacted by facilities, technology and equipment he helped pay for. In recognition of his service, the American Hospital Association presented its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to Larry in late 2022. But good luck hearing him admit all he's done. “My grandfather always said, ‘Son, if you want to be successful, you have to surround yourself with successful people and let them be successful,’” he said. “I’ve always taken that as my motto, and if I’ve done anything well, its finding those successful people to surround myself with. That’s really all I’ve done.”

Larry came to the hospital after 17 decorated years in banking and a retirement surreptitiously interrupted by his neighbor, then-CEO of the hospital, who quickly dropped by with a proposition.“ He said, ‘We’ve got a good foundation, but we need to move it up the ladder a bit,’” Larry said. “I said I’d come out and spend a couple of years. Guess what? Twenty-three years later, I’m still here.” Larry’s first step in reinvigorating the foundation was to look inward, reasoning if employees didn’t buy into the mission, the wider community wouldn’t either. He established an employee fund drive that laid the first brick for all success thereafter. “We had about 1,000 employees at that time,” he said. “I was hoping we’d raise $30,000 the first year, and we raised $74,000. That proved to our community we were going to help ourselves, too. “Over the years, people heard of our employee fund drive, and they’d call from all over the country wanting to know how we averaged 80 percent employee participation. The national average is closer to 30 percent.”

Larry proved equally adept at external fundraising. Despite Mountain Home consistently numbering fewer than 12,000 residents, he led the foundation team to achieve one seemingly unattainable goal after another. “The largest campaign we did, we raised almost $2 million for our OBGYN floor. That was in one year,” he said. “Another one that stands out is a simulation lab we did not too long ago. It wasn’t the biggest, less than $1 million, but it touches so many people, training our nurses and our physicians.

“Another special project to me was the mobile mammography unit where we became the first to have a tomosynthesis in a mobile unit anywhere in America. When we got that unit, we were invited to Washington, D.C., to display it before the House and Senate. I was really proud of that.” Between capital campaigns, Larry turned the foundation into a charity of choice for those planning their estates, introducing multiple ways of giving in the now, in the future and in the hereafter.

“The way a really good foundation is structured, you have your annual funds that support things annually as well as repeat donors. Then you have your major gifts of $10,000 and above that support bigger capital campaigns,” he said. “Then you have your deferred gifts that lend support after someone passes away and they leave part or all of their estate with us. We structured ourselves to focus on all three: We have a 24-member board that has an annual gifts committee, a major gifts committee and a deferred gifts committee. Those committees have been very successful in driving this foundation.”

Perhaps no success story better encapsulates Larry’s complete skillset marrying internal and external audiences than the Baxter Health Hospital Auxiliary. Working hand-in-hand with the group, he not only built the volunteer ranks, he also helped the auxiliary create a $1 million endowment. But again, his modesty is such you’d think he had nothing much to do with any of these things. “I will tell you there’s a lot of other folks that did great work. Without our hospital board, foundation board and auxiliary board, none of this could have happened,” he said. “We’ve had great boards over my time, great committee leaders who have stepped up, who not only give of their time but also their financial resources to support this great institution here at Baxter Health. “The leadership team at Baxter Health is one of the best I’ve ever worked with. They’re always there to help and support and have been encouraging, always by my side. That has made a big difference in our commitment.”

Ask around and to a person, people marvel at Larry’s work ethic, something he developed early and honestly. Born in Staten Island, NY, his parents divorced when he was a year old. His mother Georgia packed her baby boy to St. Louis to be near her parents, thus surrounding the youngster with strong, positive role models. “Serving as a single mom for quite some years, my mother knew what it took to make a living,” he said. “She was a checker in a grocery store and she really worked hard, but was always very jovial, very giving and just a super individual. She was a great lady, and she made a big difference in my life. “My grandfather was pastor of a church in St. Louis for 50-some years, and he just poured himself into my life. He was very stern, very structured but had great values. He gave me good advice. And he had a work ethic beyond measure.”

Whatever Larry didn’t get from his mother’s family, he got from his stepfather Norman Larry, an Illinois farmer. Milking cows while balancing schoolwork and three high school sports further honed his work habits, which today are as intense and effective as ever. Yet for all his career accolades, Larry is even more proud of his family. “Being in health care, as in the banking business, you don’t work eight hours a day; you work 12, 13, 14 hours a day sometimes,” he said. “One thing about my wife Debbie, she’s a very calm, soothing person and she brings a quietness to our home that has helped me be successful. She creates a home environment that allows me to be out there and do what I do every day. I know there is never a day that goes by where she is not praying for me to be God’s servant.

“My kids had to put up with me missing some events and things like that, but they’re so kind and understanding. For that, I’m very thankful. ”Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us for everything there is a time, and for Larry the time has come to step into retirement, indulge his family and see what comes next. And as loathe as he is to talk of his accomplishments, he does indulge in one last pep talk for the people he leaves behind to carry on his legacy. “Here’s what I believe: I believe what we have done here is ask people not to give money, but to join our mission,” he said. “Our mission is to provide compassionate care for the patients that we take care of every day. When you give them that opportunity to join your mission and then render the type of care that we give here in the culture we have, it’s really easy to obtain those dollars. If you want to talk about it in the context of sales, it’s a great product to sell.

“I have one thing that everybody kind of kids me about. I don’t believe we have problems in this world, at all. I believe that we’re given opportunities every day. I’m hoping that our institution still believes that the things we face are opportunities to make things better.” ‘Barney said it’s an opportunity,’ that’s what I want my quote to be, encouraging the people here to continue to face those opportunities and use them to build on what God wants this institution to be, every day. A place of compassionate care.”