Penticton man to lead provincial Shriners group
For the first time in nearly 30 years, a Penticton man is at the helm of a charitable group that’s known for its eye-catching parade entries, yet performs its best work away from public view as it has done for centuries.
Bruce Barker was installed earlier this year as the new potentate — or chairman — of the seven-member board of Shriners of B.C. and Yukon. He’s the first Penticton resident to hold the position, which comes with a one-year term, since Dr. Mac Berry in 1987.
Tracy Cromwell, executive director of the Shriners branch, said Barker, who works as a financial planner, brings a much-desired skill set to the position.
“It has been a few years since we have had a board chair from outside Greater Vancouver, so we are looking forward to Bruce’s leadership as we work to ensure our operation provides the best possible care and service for children throughout the province,” she said.
“As with many charitable organizations, strong fiscal management is becoming more and more important. To be a leader in the sector today, you have to have the right mix of head and heart. Bruce gives us that, with his background in financial planning and his passion for the cause,” she said.
Shriners clubs exist to serve others and “the public face is definitely the parades,” said Barker, but “we’re definitely noted for our hospital system, which consists of 22 hospitals throughout North America.”
The private hospitals specialize in treatment for pediatric orthopedic problems, spinal cord and burn injuries, and cleft lip and palate care.
Shriners also operate Care Cruiser buses, which in B.C. transport children to medical appointments at hospitals in the Lower Mainland or their organization’s own facilities in the U.S.
According to statistics provided by Shriners, 31 people from Penticton caught a ride last year, plus 66 from Vernon and 88 from Kelowna.
To support their charitable work, the Penticton Shrine Club hosts an annual golf tournament, and this year is planning a special one-day event in conjunction with Carl’s Jr. restaurants throughout the region, Barker said. Lesser known, perhaps, is that all Shriners are members of the Freemason fraternity.
Barker said Freemasons are “most definitely” trying to shed their shadowy reputation by emphasizing ties to programs like those offered by Shriners and inviting the public and politicians to observe his installation ceremony in Burnaby.
“The doors are opening. It’s a totally different perspective now on Freemasonry,” said Barker. “It’s not a secret society; it’s a society with secrets.”
Barker said Freemasons average 72 years in age and the group is interested in attracting new members.
More information on becoming a Shriner or Freemason is available online at www.becomeashrinernow.com.