Barbie Fox’s reaction to being selected one of Vigo County’s top young leaders in the inaugural class of 12 Under 40?
“I was shocked! I’ve never won anything before,” Fox said of her reaction to being selected. “I got my letter, and I went in to my boss and I was like, ‘Look at this!’”
Fox is manager of the cafe at Barnes & Noble, and she serves as president of the First Friday events downtown. She is on the board of Block Party and Miracle on 7th Street, leads a Girl Scout troop of 21 scouts, attends college full time, and has a husband and four children. She stays busy volunteering with 17 committees, and that fits well with her position at Barnes & Noble, which is a company committed to community involvement.
“Sometimes I don’t know when I sleep,” she admits, laughing about her busy schedule. “It’s just very natural for me to be involved, and where I see a need, that’s where I go.”
A Terre Haute native, Fox grew up in Brazil, where she attended school, but she moved back to Terre Haute as an adult. She graduated from Northview High School in 2002, and hopes to finish an associate degree at Ivy Tech Community College this fall. The absence of a college degree has earned her the description of “mailroom success story” because she has worked hard, starting jobs at ground level and working her way up.
“A lot of the time, I’m the only person in the room who doesn’t have a degree,” she said of fellow community volunteers, but she hasn’t let that stop her. “I’m a do-er, not a degree-er.”
However, she has been accepted at Indiana State University, and she hopes to start taking classes there in the future.
She began working at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in August 2013, and manager Rachel Mundell said that Fox is a definite asset in community outreach.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Barbie,” Mundell said. “I always say we couldn’t do what we do without Barbie.”
She, in turn, likes Mundell’s enthusiasm for community involvement. “She always says ‘say yes and we will figure it out’ when it comes to new projects,” Fox said.
Fox credits her parents with instilling in her a volunteer spirit. Her mother was a volunteer at the Union Hospital gift shop, and she also led Scout troops, 4-H clubs and camps, and in retirement, her mother is active in a church clothes closet.
That volunteerism certainly rubbed off on Fox, who currently calls the First Friday downtown project her “baby” because of the potential she sees in the event. It takes a lot of work to coordinate, but she enjoys inviting people to the downtown for restaurants, shopping and live music on the first Friday of each month.
“Downtown Terre Haute is going through a huge revitalization,” she said, “and I think the changes are so exciting that people need to be down here to see it.”
Her enthusiasm is contagious when it comes to community involvement, and her dedication is admired by her peers.
“I’m not sure when she sleeps, but I’m proud of her, proud of what she’s done for downtown, and proud to call her my friend,” wrote Lori Mitchell in her nomination of Fox for the award.
“She has single-handedly turned First Fridays into a sought-after event, and spends much of her time focused on making them a success,” Mitchell said.
Trevor Bridgewater said he feels that Fox’s commitment surpasses that of most others.
“She has risen quickly in the ranks of importance when it comes to building the future of the downtown area,” Bridgewater wrote in his nomination. “Her passion is also apparent, just from the first few moments of interacting with her.”
Fox also is involved with Miracle on 7th Street, a downtown event that is being expanded to two days this year. She said she was honored to be asked to participate in the event, as well as help with the Downtown Block Party. Both of those events actually take place on a first Friday, so she gets to take a break from doing her First Friday work, but she will switch her busy gears into the Miracle and Block Party events.
“I don’t know what they’ll have me do, I might just sell hot chocolate, who knows. Whatever they need,” she said of the Miracle on 7th Street.
Additionally, she has been working on a book drive to benefit the Ryves neighborhood. She said she is always looking for a new project to work on, in part because it validates her own self-worth.
“This is important to me,” she said of being recognized as one of the 12 Under 40. “I had my first child at age 17. Everyone else in high school had a meeting with their guidance counselor their senior year, but they skipped me. They wrote me off.”
Thankfully, she didn’t write herself off.
“You can still get there,” she said. “It might take you longer, but you are still valuable. I see this award as marking that moment when I have arrived.”