Lifetime Humanitarian - John Barfield
Lifetime Humanitarian Award: honors individuals or families that have demonstrated a lifetime of outstanding civic and charitable responsibility to a community or organization.
John Barfield of Ann Arbor has a long history of giving back and paying it forward. He served in the U.S. Army immediately after WWII. He has generously supported humanitarian causes, including feeding Michigan’s hungry and supporting global needs.
John has been involved in and volunteered with numerous nonprofits nearly his entire life including Spaulding for Children, an organization that helps foster families caring for special needs children. He served on the board for 17 years and led efforts to create a $4 million endowment for the charity. He also served as chairman of the United Negro College Fund for 10 years, helping raise $1.1 million in scholarships for African American students.
John and his wife Betty formed Share Products in 1991 after realizing a need to help homeless citizens. The organization sold consumer products and donated profits to the Salvation Army. John also provided aid to African and Caribbean nations with the mission to improve the quality of life. He has been a member of Ypsilanti Rotary International since early 1960s and supported global humanitarian causes ranging from eradicating polio, building wells for clean drinking water and improving education in developing nations.
He also played an active role in preserving the ParkRidge Community Center, an institution in the Ypsilanti community for more than 70 years. He led efforts in a partnership between the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw Community College to keep the center open.
John has been quite successful as he has founded numerous businesses including the Bartech Group, which is a global workforce management and staffing solutions provider and is headquartered in Livonia with international operations in Canada and the United Kingdom. The Bartech Group, supports several local and global organizations, including Children’s Miracle Network, Susan G. Komen, Wreaths Across America, and P.A.W.S. of Michigan. In 2017, The Bartech Group, now run by one of Barfield’s sons, celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Barfield attributes much of his success to lessons he learned in childhood, including the importance of giving back, whether it is time, expertise, or wealth. “As an African American, I believe it’s my responsibility to be an example to our young people,” he says. “The secret to a long and healthy life is caring for people and doing as much as you possibly can for others, especially those less fortunate. That’s what I’d like to be remembered for.”