“I think we all need to give back,” said Nancy Barone, who hails from Peoria, Illinois originally. “We’re all truly blessed, and it doesn’t matter how much we have to give back—sometimes our time is the biggest thing we have to give.” After this, Nancy slides over a creased piece of paper that she says is always hanging on the wall over her desk. The quote printed on it seems to be her motto. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth.” –Muhammad Ali.
The person who originally inspired Barone to work hard and give back was her junior year typing teacher at Peoria High School. Since then, giving back has become a lifelong mission of Barone’s. When she moved to Valparaiso in 1974, she was a stay-at-home mother and then substitute teacher before her passion led her to volunteer, where she’s perfectly content working on everything as much as possible
“As one person you think you can’t do much. But as a group, you have a bigger impact,” she said.
Now, Barone owns Pioneer Products Incorporated and sells ad specialties to companies, “all things to help promote their businesses—coffee cups, folders, pens, wearables.” Every day is something different.
“But it’s all the fun stuff,” she said. “Like, if you worked in a hospital, it would be the baby department, because that’s where all the joy is.”
In addition to her business, Barone has been doing community work as a Delta Theta Tau member for 40 years and is a current member of Kiwanis, whose platform is to serve the children of the world, one child at a time. This involves weekly meetings and lots of committees, events, scholarships, and fundraisers, some of which are pancake breakfasts and this year’s corn roast. All proceeds are given back to the youth of the community, with the exception of the support Kiwanis also gives to Riley Hospital for Children. During one event, a Kiwanis scholarship recipient told Barone that he was going into a profession to help people.
“This work is important because you get to see it go full circle. You see, giving helps young people, and they give it back. That’s all anyone can hope for—that they’ll pass it forward,” Barone said. “You always hope that you will influence and make it possible for young people to fulfill their dreams, and at some point they will be able to give back.”
Barone’s favorite part about the community is just how giving it is, and the joy that people get from giving back. “For example,” she said, “there was a flood at Hilltop Food Bank, and the football team came in and helped move the food to higher ground. There’s always a bunch of people willing to help. It sort of balances out some of the ugliness in the world with politics. You know, it is sort of wonderful to work on something so positive.”