Habitat president opening a new chapter in her life

After four years of leading the South Okanagan chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Florence Barton has decided it’s time to refocus her priorities.

Merle Kindred (second from left) leads a group on a walk from the Penticton Library to the site where Habitat for Humanity is building a home on Huth Avenue. Kindred is taking over as vice-president of the local chapter as they reorganize to replace out-going president Florence Barton.

After four years of leading the South Okanagan chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Florence Barton has decided it’s time to refocus her priorities.

“I need to get back to writing, which has been put on hold for four years,” said Barton, who became president of the society in 2007. “Also, my age is a factor. I will turn 80 this fall.”

Barton helped to found Habitat for Humanity South Okanagan, along with Scott Downey, who was the group’s first president, and Reverend David Irving, then rector of St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and now Bishop of Saskatoon.

But though she is stepping down as president, Barton isn’t abandoning the organization; she still plans to stay heavily involved.

“I will remain on the board and I will still do a couple of things; I will do family selection and support,” said Barton. However, she continued, writing will now become a higher priority in her life.

“I write mystery novels under the pen name Anne Barton. I’ve written six so far and I wanted to get started doing some more,” she said. “I need uninterrupted time in order to write and the Habitat presidency was a job where things happen any time of the day, any day of the week. I just couldn’t find the time to really sit down and write. So I just had to sort of put it on hold.”

A retired veterinarian and flight instructor, Barton draws on her own background to create her mysteries, which break down into two separate series. In one, the main character is a flight instructor and though she calls it something by another name, Barton admits the setting is really the Okanagan Valley.

The protagonist in the other series is young woman veterinarian, trying to establish her practice in her hometown in northern Idaho, which is where Barton grew up.

“She gets involved in all these murder inquiries because of some contact with her veterinary practice,” said Barton. “In the second book in the series, the victim was poisoned with the medication that she had dispensed for the family dog. I call that one a medical mystery with a twist.”

Lynn Popoff, vice-president of Habitat, will be taking over the president’s duties, with Merle Kindred elected to fill the now vacant vice-president position. Popoff, a retired school administrator, joined the group as publicity chair three years ago, taking on the vice-president duties two years later. Kindred brings 20 years of experience with the Habitat organization, including three years as president of the award-winning Copper Country HFH in Michigan.

During Barton’s time as president, the local habitat group has built two homes, one in Summerland and the other in Penticton. A third home, also in Penticton, is just about to move into the building phase.

“I really wanted to get it started, but now I really do need to get back to my writing,” said Barton.

“I keep thinking, I’ve got to do this because all the books that are there now are starting to get old.”


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