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Volunteerism ‘one of the greatest ways to meet people’

People of Collingwood: Barry Manchester, 2024 recipient of the Order of Collingwood
From left to right, Coun. Christopher Baines, Barry Manchester, Coun. Brandon Houston and Mayor Yvonne Hamlin at the 2024 New Year's Levee in January.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the next several weeks, this column will feature this year’s recipients of the Order of Collingwood.

Barry Manchester’s list of volunteer jobs over the years is lengthy, as is the list of life-long friendships he's formed along the way. 

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Manchester, 68, recipient of the Order of Collingwood.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in the west end of Toronto. My folks had a weekend place in the hills of Creemore, and that was my introduction to the area.

When my fiancee and I (now wife) were deciding where we were going to create our lives, we decided we would look at Collingwood.

My wife and I moved here in March 1986.

Q: What made you choose Collingwood specifically?

A: We both are outdoors lovers and we both love to ski. We like to swim, sail and hike. Collingwood was a perfect choice. It’s a unique location.

Q: What do you do for work?

A: I’m a real estate broker. I’ve worked with Royal LePage for almost 39 years.

Q: Can you summarize your volunteer experience? How did you get started volunteering?

A: We didn’t really know anybody when we first moved here.

My father had said to me that when you move to a new area and don’t know anybody, one of the greatest ways to meet people is through volunteerism.

Because of our love of sports, my wife and I both joined the YMCA. I loved racquetball and we started the racquetball league which turned into a fabulous group of guys and girls. I ended up becoming an instructor there.

I sat on the board of directors for many years at the YMCA.

In 1986, I also co-founded the Royal LePage Charity Ski Day with a coworker. That has become a major fundraiser. It’s been running continuously for 38 years.

Also in 1986, me and six or eight other similarly-minded local guys set out to start the Collingwood Optimist Club. We obtained our charter. I’m proud to say I’m the charter vice president. It’s become a substantial club supporting local children.

Q: Can you tell me about your work with the Collingwood Ski Club?

A: It was our club of choice because we love Blue Mountain. We met a lot more people. Our kids grew up there.

The natural progression for me was to join the board of directors. I’ve sat in numerous positions, including president.

I volunteered with the FIS ski races at Blue Mountain as chief steward. I had 25 to 30 volunteers who worked with me for on- and off-hill safety for the racers.

I’m also a big believer in donating blood. I recently made my 75th donation.

I’m an associate director at the Great Northern Exhibition as well.

Q: You’ve done work for the Georgian Triangle Humane Society (GTHS). How did you get involved there?

A: My daughter used to work for them. She was the head of placement.

We have had dogs and rescues and when she became an employee, it became one of my favourite charities. They got to know me, and I got to know them.

They were looking for a piece of land for the new Regional Centre for Pets and People with certain parameters, and I happened to have a client who was potentially interested in selling.

We brokered that deal between my client and the GTHS.

We’re hoping they’ll be putting a shovel in the ground this year.

Q: Is there a specific reason you choose to volunteer your time in this way?

A: We love Collingwood. It’s been very good for me professionally. We raised our kids here. I was just raised that way – that volunteerism is extremely rewarding.

It’s a learning experience and I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s very important. More people should volunteer.

We’ve been busy and we’ve enjoyed it.

Q: How did you feel when you heard you were going to be getting the Order of Collingwood?

A: It’s a huge honour.

The first thing I said to my wife is I don’t expect recognition when it comes to these types of things because it’s rewarding and it’s a natural thing we do.

I knew the majority of the other nominees. Sheila Stewart (winner of the companion to the Order of Collingwood) was a nurse and she actually delivered our first child.

It’s a great group of people. We’ve formed a lot of solid friendships through volunteerism. Moving to Collingwood was a prudent move.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: One of my favourites is riding my bike. I got rid of my road bike a few years ago and got more of a beachy-type bike. I like to go and cruise the Collingwood shoreline.

We’re still avid skiers.

We’re lucky enough to live on acreage and I like snowshoeing. I open-water swim in Georgian Bay. It’s a highlight for me.

We do canoe camping and I kayak the Beaver Valley River.

Because of my business, I tell people I’m living the lifestyle that I’m selling.

Q: What does the future hold for you?

A: I envision being a little more involved at the GNE. I think the fall fair is a real jewel in this area.

I’m one foot out the door professionally.

I should have more time.

I have a friend who does work with volunteers at the hospital. I expect I will probably be working with her before too much longer.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: I thank Collingwood for their acceptance.

We are cognizant on a regular basis how fortunate we are to have moved up here. As a result, we have created some fabulous friendships.

It’s a magnificent area.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we speak with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature runs on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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