Carol Jenkins Barnett

A Life of Giving is a Life Worth Living

Carol Jenkins Barnett

A tribute to Carol Jenkins Barnett from the Junior League of Greater Lakeland.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. . .

In a firmament of our community’s shining stars, Carol Jenkins Barnett is certainly one of the brightest. Giving generously of her time, talent, and treasure is as second nature to Carol as it was to her mentor and father, Publix Founder George W. Jenkins. “You simply can’t out-give God” was something Mr. George taught his young daughter, and Carol learned that lesson well, continuing to practice the principle throughout a life of abundant giving to others. Carol also learned the act of volunteering from her mother, Anne MacGregor Jenkins, to whom our building’s Lake Morton Parlor is dedicated. A League volunteer herself, Anne stood on ladders, decorating for a league event, while she was pregnant with Carol. Hence there is little wonder that Carol is one of our most devoted members, with voluntarism and philanthropy running in equal measure through her veins.

Throughout years of League service, Carol has worn many important hats. During her active years, Carol served as Nominating Chairman, Admissions/ Provisional Chairman, Special Projects Task Force Chairman, Treasurer, and Community Vice President. But one of her most important roles, and certainly one of her favorites, was being what she refers to as “The Mother of Follies” when she reintroduced that highly successful corporate fundraiser to our membership in 1984. Carol also took on the critical role of being Follies Backers Chairman for several of our League follies, and she saw to it that Publix served as a principle backer. Additionally, Carol and her husband Barney always enjoyed performing onstage in these fun community events. Subsequently, Publix also restored the marquee for the Polk Theatre which housed our follies events.

Today, as a League sustainer, Carol serves on the Jr. League’s Community Think Tank, a group she once chaired as Community Vice President. Her input is invaluable, and her participation, both now and over the years (she even hosted our first Sustainer Fall Gathering) is appreciated more than she will ever know. To Carol, her husband Barney, and her sons Wesley and Nicholas who, coincidentally, are each married to their very own Ashley, we tender our most sincere thanks for sharing this most remarkable woman and loving friend with us throughout the years.

Beyond the League, Carol has been honored in many ways for her philanthropic spirit. Recently, Carol had the honor of being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2004, she won the Florida Arts Recognition Award for her dedication to the arts in Florida. As a tireless worker for the United Way and as the long-time president of Publix Super Market Charities, Carol’s reach has been widely felt. To that end, Carol was the recipient of the 2015 Women in Philanthropy award, a national honor bestowed by the United Way Women’s Leadership Council.

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce honored Carol, a graduate of Leadership Lakeland, with the Jerry Annis Award for service. A Florida Southern College alumni, Carol and her fellow alumni and husband Barney have given generously to that campus with buildings bearing the names of their family members and their company. The city of Lakeland has been a beneficiary of the family’s generosity with their sponsorship of the beautiful Barnett Family Park. While Lakeland Regional Health’s eight-story, 300,000 square-foot new wing, slated to open in 2018 , will proudly bear Carol’s own name when it opens: The Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children.

Additionally 40 families throughout the states served by Publix will have decent housing as well as increased support to more than 60 Habitat for Humanity affiliates with the multi-million dollar grant that Carol and Barney made to Habitat. In Polk County, our community’s frail seniors served by VISTE benefit from their generosity as well.

Here is a sampling of what the Children’s Movement of Florida of which she is a board member has to say about Carol, particularly her lifelong devotion to untold thousands of Florida’s youth to whom she has helped furnish the opportunity to reach their own potential:

Carol has served as president of Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. since 1991, and as a member of the board of directors of Publix Super Markets, since 1983. She has served as vice chair of the Florida Council of Economic Education, co-chair of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance, and as an executive board member of the Florida Council on Economic Education. In 1997, she became a founding board member of the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland. In 1998, Carol initiated the “Feed Me a Story” children’s reading initiative, and in 1999, she was appointed vice chair of the Florida Partnership for School Readiness Board. In 2000, she founded Family Fundamentals, a Success by 6 outreach facility. As vice chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida, her leadership and contributions led to the establishment of the statewide early literacy initiative, ReadingPals. In 2015, ReadingPals was expanded, adding five new programs, for a total of 15. There are over 200 reading locations around Florida, with approximately 2,000 volunteers and 2,500 students from pre-kindergarten to the third grade. She has served on the boards of Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, All Saints Academy and the Florida Council on Economic Education. Currently, she serves on the United Way Leadership Council and the Polk Education Foundation Board of Directors.

Above and beyond the spotlight that shines so brightly on her various endeavors, Carol is the real deal, a real friend. Money and power have never gone to her head, and she is the same sweet person to everyone she meets and has known for years: kind and encouraging, loving and loyal, dependable and true. And whether in friendship or philanthropy, Carol is the embodiment of the principle of Noblesse Oblige: to whom much is given, much is expected. That is a principle Carol has faithfully adhered to all of her life, and she has learned firsthand and can say with the best of them, “A life of giving is a life worth living.”

So to all of us who are blessed to call Carol a friend, and she has many friends, may we learn from her selfless example, and may we endeavor to make her as proud of us as we are of her.

Shine on, Carol, as you are dearly loved!