By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Barbara Hinkle

Southern grace and gentility
By Beth Volpert

The pretty white house surrounded by picket and split rail fencing is home to a labor of love.

The property once belonged to the Cox family and was purchased by the City of Grayson to serve as an arts and history center. Over the years, with the help of countless volunteers and the City Historian, Steve Starling, Barbara Hinkle brought a new life to the center of town by providing an experience that combined her skills in both art and retailing.

As the city grows and begins to look for a Community Development Director who will oversee several tasks which includes managing the Art and History Center, Barbara will relinquish the reins as Director. 

With a solid background in retail and entrepreneurship, Barbara Hinkle’s little touches brought gifts and decor for every budget and taste that filled each nook and cranny of the historic property. Little girls often took delight in finding the “just-right items” that were placed at their height throughout the gift shop with a price tag to match a young lady’s budget. Such are the touches of a talented woman with an eye for the delightful. 
History and arts have been the cornerstones that breathed new life into the historic property located in the city park. “Since the first event we planned in Autumn of 2002, Barbara has brought a touch of grace and southern charm to our city,” says Steve Starling. “Everything that she has achieved was done with artistic southern gentility for the good of the community.” 

During the the planning stages in 2002, Barbara began to see that the Arts and History Center truly had a place in Grayson. “When I met Steve Starling, who would become our City Historian, we put our heads together and tried to think what would be good for Grayson as far as the early history of our citizens was concerned,” says Barbara. “We found that we had lots and lots of history here and it needed to be told.” The pair began the process to tell the stories in the best of southern traditions.

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From teas, markets, open houses, artists and writers in residence to history tours for students and scouts, Barbara Hinkle has worn a variety of hats for the city. As a former First Lady of Grayson, Barbara and her husband, Former Mayor Jim Hinkle have watched the city grow. “We have lived here for more than forty years and love our town,” says Barbara. “Although, I am looking forward to more restful days at the lake.” The couple’s lake home is located near Milledgeville and Barbara has already been asked to apply her special touches to several events in the historic Georgia town. “I am very excited to become involved in some of these volunteer opportunities,” says Barbara. “

As part of her responsibilities at the Art and History Center, Barbara oversees several volunteers who have become dear friends. When asked about Barbara, her volunteers joyfully offered enough anecdotes to fill a book. 

“She is the kindest, most giving and helpful lady I have ever met,” says Carol McLaren. “She is the face of the City of Grayson.” Carol goes on to explain, “Barbara has spent the last thirteen years serving the city tirelessly with her special teas, her special decorating, giving tours to schools and Boy Scouts, bringing meals to older citizens and driving them to their doctor appointments as well as having rescued and placed over 75 cats!” Carol feels that her friend and co-volunteer is a special lady who is well loved and will be sorely missed by the whole community. “It has been an honor to volunteer for Barb for the last nine years.”

One might never know all the things that Barbara has had a hand in doing over the years. “Barbara has been a true blessing to our community,” says fellow volunteer, Linda Burmeister. “For instance, she has taken the time to work with the school in order that they might have little items for children to buy at a very good price for their families at Christmas.” Another friend and co-volunteer, Jane Floyd offered a view inside the inner workings of the A & H Center. “Many lasting friendships have been made at that old kitchen table,” says Jane.  “I hope the community spirit that it has embodied will continue.” Jane describes Barbara’s work and devotion to the center and the community as having been given with a graciousness that made all who entered feel especially welcome. 

Volunteer Valliere Jones says of the center, “It provides a mini-museum of pictures, artifacts and furniture to interest and educate Grayson's citizens and visitors alike.” According to Valliere, there was always a waiting list to enjoy the elegant teas hosted by Barbara and the volunteers. “The monthly open houses and seasonal festivities have always been eagerly anticipated,” says Valliere. “Barbara Hinkle's commitment to the restoration and preservation of Grayson's historical treasures is testimony to her love and respect for the community she has served so well.

Meeting Barbara forbarbara diag-190 the first time is often like a homecoming. Aljean Almond recalls her first trip to the center, “I was greeted at the door by Miss Hazel (a cat namedfor one of Grayson’s historic characters).” She goes on to say that after she picked the cat up, Barbara appeared with a gracious smile. “We were instant friends,” says Aljean. “Barbara is just like that; she has been the goodwill ambassador for Grayson for many, many years and her presence will be missed.” It also didn’t hurt that Miss Hazel went home with Aljean which added to Barbara’s track record of well-placed foster kitties.More heartfelt words are reflected in the comments of Writer-in-Residence, Joey Hancock who sees the Art and History center as a strong foundation for what makes the town he calls home a great place to live. “I love coming by here, seeing people, meeting people; it’s just a neat place,” says Joey. “Barbara’s personality, her ability to create and interact with people along with the gifts that she has as far as being able to do things are phenomenal.” 

The anecdotes about Barbara and her community service are entertaining and heartfelt. They number in the hundreds at presstime. For Barbara, the memories are almost overwhelming, but she takes it all in with her signature southern grace and gentility. Plan to visit the center for your holiday shopping and to wish Barbara a fond farewell.

To read the full story on Joey Hancock, please click: Embroidered stories and Christmas tales...