John Barli
Regional Director, Catholic Charities — Gainesville Regional Office

I first experienced Gainesville when I came here to attend the University of Florida in the fall of 1974, as an 18-year- old freshman from Miami. I thought I would miss the “big city” and my Miami Dolphins, but I would have to give them up for four years to attend college. Well guess what? I never missed Miami and I fell in love with my new home in north central Florida. The Dolphins were quickly replaced with the Gators, and on top of football, we had basketball and baseball! This was in the day before the Heat and the Marlins. Miami Beach was replaced with Crescent Beach and the Santa Fe River. Year-round sports, a beach and a river, perfect for any 18-year- old.

As with many college students, I started working in the restaurant business to supplement my student loans, and that afforded me the opportunity to meet more of the “locals.” I could not believe how nice and genuine the people I met were. I could drive a car through town and never hear a horn honk! People were patient. So much for the big city. When I had finished

When I had finished school, jobs took me away from Gainesville. I moved to nine different cities in Florida, and I kept coming back. I missed all those things I had fallen for as an 18-year- old. One of the things that drew me back to

One of the things that drew me back to Gainesville was the faith-based community; I first became exposed to it when I was going to church while in college. As a restaurant owner, I became more involved with a number of churches and charities. I am always amazed at what a giving community we have, people so willing to give not only their treasures, but their time and talents. When I left the restaurant business, I began volunteering at Catholic Charities. I

When I left the restaurant business, I began volunteering at Catholic Charities. I joined the board of directors and became exposed to an even larger group of likeminded charitable individuals who gave their time to help grow our community. They were proud of their charity and their churches, but their pride in the community was the thing that touched me the most. Along with Catholic

Along with Catholic Charities, I am an Impact Partner with United Way of North Central Florida, and I am a board of directors member of Stop Children’s Cancer. What a wide array of people working to benefit individual causes which ultimately benefit the overall health and wellbeing of Gainesville. If there are more giving communities than ours, I am not aware of them.

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