Community surprises Ginger Barkley with a birthday caravan

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Family and friends teamed up for a surprise birthday tribute Saturday for a Smyrna woman who is always helping others.

Because of the coronavirus restrictions, knowing a big party was out of the question, they brought the party to her, one car at a time.

A caravan cruised by Ginger Barkley’s home in Smyrna, as drivers and passengers shouted “happy birthday," “congratulations” and “we love you,” many holding signs and dropping off gifts.

Her family was able to keep the tribute a surprise, telling her they wanted to all go together to a restaurant to pick up sushi to celebrate her birthday. At about the time they were leaving, a firetruck blaring its siren and a police car led dozens of cars, trucks and a limousine past Barkley’s home, and her family quickly brought a lawn chair so she could sit and enjoy the parade in honor of her 48th birthday.

“I totally felt the love, especially to see current and past students,” said Barkley, the administrative assistant at Smyrna High School.

Principal Stacy Cook said Barkley has an “endless willingness to help our students who are struggling.”

“If she hears about a student’s need, she will do everything she can to fulfill that need and often go beyond the need,” said Cook.

However, Barkley helps discreetly.

“She never wants anyone to know she is responsible for the kindness. She prefers to stay out of the spotlight,” said Cook. “She has the biggest heart and the kindest soul.”

Barkley said what she enjoys most about her job is “making connections with the students and being able to provide them with opportunities and help change lives.”

She can usually be seen at school programs, awards ceremonies and sports events, photographing the students to send to them as well as posting the pictures on the school’s website and social media pages to recognize their accomplishments.

“It's for the kids and their families,” Barkley said, because sometimes parents and family members aren’t able to attend an event during work or for other reasons.

“It’s an awesome feeling when a student comes to you and thanks you for doing such a small task,” Barkley said. “They enjoy having someone there for them and they are so appreciative of the added bonus of having photos to document such an important time in their lives. I get messages from parents and grandparents as well. They may not be able to attend events because they live out of state.”

She said her favorite project is free senior portraits for students who would have difficulty paying for them.

“It's a joy to see the smile on their faces when they get to be included in what sometimes others take for granted,” Barkley said.

Barkley also provides photos of many high school awards and events to the Sun-Times to share with the community online and in the newspaper.

“We greatly appreciate what Ginger has done for us through the years,” said Sun-Times editor Ben Mace. “She takes great pictures and is always helpful and friendly.”

Along with helping at the high school, she has volunteered in a variety of youth programs, including Little League, Pop Warner and Little Wrestlers.

Tina Leager, the player agent for Smyrna-Clayton Little League, has known Barkley since they were in kindergarten together. She said Barkley has always given her time to help the community in a variety of ways.

Barkley served on the Little League board of directors for 10 years as the public relations coordinator.

“She updated our website and took thousands of pictures of the players, posting them on our Facebook page for all families to share,” said Leager. “She stepped down three years ago to focus on the high school events, her kids and their new business. She has been greatly missed.”

Barkley spent many years working with the Delaware State Police Explorers program at Troop 9 as a civilian advisor.

“I most recently got to help with the Smyrna Police Department when they started their own Junior Police Explorers program,” Barkley said. “I respect the officers in their jobs and how they give up their personal time to volunteer to teach the young adults the aspects of their jobs. I still help out with any organization that calls upon me to lend a hand. I truly enjoy being able to give back to my community.”

Former Smyrna mayor Joanne Masten helped organize the birthday caravan which met at Smyrna Elementary before riding by Barkley’s home.

“Ginger has done so much for this community, and we just wanted to let her know how much we appreciate it,” said Masten. “She has volunteered with multiple organizations and is always helping children and students. She’s the kind of person who makes our community such a wonderful place.”

Barkley thanked everyone who helped make this birthday unique.

“It was so nice to be able to see the faces of family, friends, co-workers and students since living the sheltered life of the Covid virus for the past two months. However, they totally embarrassed me. I'm the one that likes to do that for others!”