Searching for an "Unsung Hero" - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Searching for an "Unsung Hero"

Bill Barbre Bill Barbre
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November 17, 2003

Albany-- What is a hero? For awhile, Superman fit the bill. After 9-11, firefighters and policemen became our new ideal. Sports stars, Hollywood hunks, rockers, and even political pundits are idolized. But, you could be passing by a hero everyday and not know it. We set out to find that "Unsung Hero."

Do you recognize a hero in this picture? There are no people with superpowers here, or folks signing million dollar shoe contracts. Our hero is, on the surface, a regular guy. Here he comes.

"What do you want me to work on?" Meet Bill Barbre.

Penny Armitage, Construction Manager, says "How do you describe Bill? He's always there, he's our constant."

Stacey Odom-Driggers, Flint River Habitat for Humanity Director says, "It's just like clockwork, it's a gimme. You know it's a Saturday and Bill's out here."

It's the weekend, and like clockwork, Bill is here, "Well I've missed a week or two." Bill hasn't missed many Saturdays. Our hero is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, "I'm just trying to help make a little difference in the world."

Here's how Bill makes a difference. Volunteer Steve Russell says, "You know there's been times when I thought about waiting until lunchtime to come out here but I knew Bill would be out here on Saturdays so I get on up and come out here."

Penny Armitage says, "I'm just in awe of him every day he works and then spends his Saturday with us alone. Which is a huge sacrifice, you don't have that many days off. And then your vacation which is your most cherished time of the year and he spends its entire time working for other people, which is rare."

Every Saturday, plus four weeks vacation, Bill is building homes for strangers. His dedication does not go unnoticed. Volunteer Hugh McClelland says, "He sets a great example for the rest of us. He embodies what Habitat should be about: hard work, doing your best and being reliable."

It's 3:00 in the afternoon--he's been up since 6:00 this morning, "I was working on my regular job at Sunnyland Farms." Bill got off one job, and without even changing out of his work shirt, came straight to the other.

Today, this 69-year-old volunteer is putting up the facia board on this Habitat home. But the mark of a hero is not his ability to hammer a few nails--it's doing what they do without seeking fame and fortune, "Normally when I see the cameras and things out here I go the other way."

Bill really didn't want to do this story. He only agreed because he was thinking of someone else, not himself, "I am just hoping it will help out Habitat for Humanity."

It's dinner-time now--most of the volunteers have left. Our camera crew was leaving too. But, as we packed up our equipment we noticed something. Bill was still working. That's our hero.

Bill Barbre has helped build more than 40 Habitat homes in five years. He was named Volunteer of the Year by the Albany affiliate.

Posted at 4:05 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com