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Brenda Baker: There will always be a need for help

Brenda Baker: There will always be a need for help
Brenda Baker: There will always be a need for help | Brenda Baker: There will always be a need for help
Many area residents are truly Angels on Earth, selflessly giving of their time and talents to help others in the community. The Messenger is honoring those people in a special series of articles.
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Brenda Baker of Obion has left her legacy all over this area — from writing her name in the cement on the pillars of the Obion County Public Library to creating different services around the county for the benefit of future generations.
Mrs. Baker serves as Obion County Fair president, chairman on the board of trustees at the Obion County Public Library and Obion County Farm Bureau women’s chairman — just to list a few of her jobs.
But alongside these roles in the community, Mrs. Baker considers herself first, and most importantly, a farm wife to her husband, Sam Baker, to whom she’s been married for 50 years, and the mother of four. These include Jenny Wilder and Robbie Baker, both of Obion, Marsha VanAlstine of Memphis and Carol Baker of Perry, Ga. She is also a grandmother to seven children. When her own children were students, she served the school system by becoming involved as a band parent for two of the children. She also frequently served as a room mother in the her children’s younger days.
Though Mrs. Baker has never officially had a salaried job, she has never let that stop her from serving her community. She says she finds that, for her, volunteering is just as important as having a job. While she was growing up, the future Angel on Earth said she wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. Although that never happened, she raised one of each.
Originally from Michi-gan, Mrs. Baker had a lot to learn about farm life after moving to Obion County with her family. Those lessons intensified when she married Sam Baker.
She learned to love farm life with her husband and she enjoyed raising her children. As they grew older, she read to each of them until they could recognize the words for themselves. This reading habit drew the Baker family to the place they could find books. “I was at the library as much as possible. In fact, I was there so much they decided I needed a job,” Mrs. Baker says.
At that time the Obion County Public Library, still located on South First Street, made Mrs. Baker an associate member of the board. Later, the county elected to put her on the board of trustees.
She’s been involved with the library for more than 25 years — dating back to the time when a new library seemed like just a dream.
“I was there from the first blueprint, and I watched every brick of that building go up,” she says proudly. “I believe the library is such an addition to the county.”
It was then, while the library was under construction, that she, along with several other board members, got to leave their names in cement on one of the pillars. Mrs. Baker smiles fondly at that memory, recalling it as an opportunity to leave her mark forever on a place she cherishes.
The library isn’t the only place that displays her influence and commitment. Mrs. Baker’s involvement around the county stretches far and wide, and she always seems to work with the vision that what she is doing now will benefit her county for generations to come.
For instance, she has been volunteering at the Obion County Fair since 1987 and has been the standing president, a volunteer job, since 1994. The fair isn’t something that lasts just one week of the year for Mrs. Baker though. “When the fair closes down, it comes to my house for the rest of the year,” Mrs. Baker says with a laugh. She goes on to say that the commitment represents a 12-month job, but she doesn’t seem to mind. “I believe Obion County has the best fair in the state,” she says, confidently calling attention to the fair’s success. Currently she’s working on the catalogue for the 2013 Obion County Fair that will take place Aug. 12-17.
Mrs. Baker got started with the fair because of ties in agriculture. Beyond her commitment as the fair president, Mrs. Baker is involved in several other organizations around the county whose focus is on agriculture. One of these is the Farm Bureau Women, whose purpose is to educate the community about agriculture, especially about where food comes from and how food grows. Recently, alongside Tim Smith at the Obion County University of Tennessee Extension office, she has been working at Discovery Park of America to start an outdoor garden.
“I think educating our kids about where our food comes from is one of the most important things we can teach them,” she said. Obviously informed about the subject, she said that today fewer than 2 percent of the population are farmers. That number is not significant enough to claim its own category in the census, although just one farmer feeds 155 people. “That means that the more the population of the world grows, the more important farmers become,” she says.
Through the Farm Bureau Women, which she is involved with on a local and statewide level, Mrs. Baker has helped Black Oak School and Obion County Central High School’s FFA start outdoor gardens.
Mrs. Baker is especially proud of her involvement with Obion County’s FFA, as her husband was the club’s first president when it became established at the school. Recently she has received an honorary chapter degree from the Obion County FFA calling attention to her service to the club and the teachers.
Mrs. Baker is also involved with the Junior Livestock organization at the fair, another place where she is both involved with youth and is leaving a positive legacy. Not long ago, she was given the Hunter Miller Memorial Award, which is awarded to someone who has made influential contributions that go above and beyond the usual level of service to the organization. That designation accurately describes Mrs. Baker, who says that if someone wants to find her on fair week, they should just check the barn.
In addition to all of these tasks Mrs. Baker is also the secretary/treasurer of the Obion Chapel Cemetery, helps maintain the Mt. Moriah Cemetery, helps with  Family Community Education groups as they prepare the Domestic Arts building at the fair, works as an election officer in Obion and writes the monthly newsletter for Troy United Methodist Church, which requires that she stay  informed and involved in the events and wellbeing of the families at her church.
But why does someone like Mrs. Baker do so much and serve for no pay? Mrs. Baker’s answer is simple, “You make time for what is important to you. It’s important to me to have a good community. You can’t expect to have a good community if you’re not willing to be involved. There are so many things that need to be done that you can’t expect to be paid for some things; so when I see the need, I fill it.”
Mrs. Baker’s advice to those looking to get involved is as good as anyone’s: “Don’t wait for someone to ask; there will always be a need for help.” And Mrs. Baker has done just that. Whether it is in her service to the Obion County Public Library, her involvement with the fair or her place in the lives of her husband and children, Mrs. Baker defines what it is to be a helpful and influential community member.
Editor’s note: Hope Montgomery is a sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. She is the daughter of Bob and Amy Montgomery of Union City.
To submit someone for consideration,  send the person’s name, contact information and the things they do to help Obion County, along with the submitter’s contact information and why the person should be recognized as an “Angel.” 
Those wishing to nominate someone for the honor are asked to send the information in writing by email to or to mail the information to her at The Messenger, P.O. Box 430, Union City, TN 38281.
Published in The Messenger 6.17.13

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