As the Director of U.S. Covenant Partner Support for The Fuller Center for Housing, Brenda Barton’s job description was too long to recite. Primarily, it was her responsibility to help covenant partners launch their operations, coach them on day-to-day operations and make sure that the many financial regulations and legal requirements were understood.
Her job description, however, grew because she tackled so many other tasks — including seeking out grants and in-kind gifts for partners and coordinating such major events as Legacy Builds and conferences. She did those things by choice because she had a passion for helping people and for The Fuller Center’s ministry. And, yet, whenever someone sought to recognize her for her efforts, she brushed it off and tried to avoid ever having attention on herself.
Brenda Barton died peacefully Wednesday night at the age of 68 after a brief battle with cancer. The family is honoring her wishes to not have a funeral. She will be buried at Andersonville National Cemetery alongside her husband Glen, who died in 2011. Details on interment are pending.
“I have known Brenda since the earliest days of The Fuller Center, when she would come over to Shreveport to support her husband, Glen,” Fuller Center President David Snell recalled on Thursday morning. “Glen was working on the Allendale miracle, which transformed that community. He later became our Director of U.S. Field Operations, and Brenda was at his side. When Glen died unexpectedly in 2011 Brenda took over his responsibilities and has faithfully served our covenant partner all across the country.”
The memory on Brenda’s laptop was usually near capacity with the thousands of documents she handled, and her phone stayed warm as she fielded calls all day long from partners with minor questions and groups facing major developments. She was the most visible person at Millard Fuller Legacy Builds, zig-zagging from house to house, fielding questions, solving problems and making every concern her own.
“Brenda was one of the hardest-working people I’ve known, working into the evenings and on weekends to guide new groups through the affiliation process and train their leaders in all aspects of our work,” Snell added. “She was a key player in our annual building events, organizing construction leaders, raising in-kind donations and generally assuring their success. She was a treasure, and The Fuller Center is diminished by her loss.”
Fuller Center Office Manager Cathy Smith was one of Brenda’s best friends in the ministry. She recalled the many times work brought them together for serious business with a side of fun, including a 2012 trip from Georgia to Texas to pick up building supplies donated by World Vision. (See that story, “Two women, one truck and a load of inspiration” at this link.)
“There are friends and then there are good friends,” Smith said on Thursday. “Brenda Barton was and always will be my good and faithful friend. Family, morals, and work ethics made our work and personal relationships click. She could, would, and did anything to get the job done and, in my book, is the type of person everyone should have the honor of working with. From a weeklong trek between Texas and Georgia in a full moving truck, to pulling all-nighters — which always included pizza and wine — to get a build or conference up and running, made up only a handful of the fun times that Brenda and I shared. Millard would have been so very proud of Brenda’s dedication. We have lost yet another good and faithful servant.”
Director of Communications Chris Johnson says it took a while for hard-driving and constantly-in-motion Brenda Barton to relate to his more subdued work personality. In recent years, though, he got a kick out of being able to getting a laugh out of her before every serious discussion ended, adding that they wound up complementing each other’s style to get much accomplished.
“I’ll certainly remember her with that phone glued to her head,” Director of Communications Chris Johnson said. “It seemed like she never stopped working, and she made me tired just watching her run back and forth. I think one of the most telling examples of that constant drive actually happened off the job. She was clearing limbs from her yard in Tallahassee after Hurricane Hermine in 2016 and was bitten by a snake. But she didn’t realize it until later. Only Brenda could get bitten by a snake — and she hated snakes — and not have time to notice.”
“I will treasure the time I worked with Brenda,” said Stacey Odom-Driggers, Director of U.S. Covenant Partner Development. “She was a force of nature — determined, diligent, and what an amazing wit and sense of humor that woman had! I loved hearing her laugh. I know she is rejoicing with Glen, and we celebrate her along with all the many families that have been served because of the Bartons. I am proud and honored to have shared this journey with Brenda. She will continue to serve as inspiration, and I will miss her greatly”
Bart Tucker, head of the busy Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders, has worked closely with Brenda, perhaps never more so than over the past couple of years as they have set up bases in Texas and North Carolina to help families recover from hurricane and flooding damage.
“Brenda was a walking encyclopedia of affiliate operations,” Tucker said Thursday. “Ask her anything and she’d respond, ‘Oh, yes, I have a couple of examples you can choose from.’ But most importantly she was deeply committed to our success. At the core of it, she was passionately committed to the homeowners we serve. And she was the best friend you could imagine having.”
Brenda Barton is survived by a daughter, Jen Barton; a son, Brian Barton; daughter-in-law Lisa Barton; and grandson David Barton.
Everyone at The Fuller Center for Housing asks that you keep her family, co-workers and many friends in your thoughts and prayers at this time.