By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
The Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce celebrated their Business and Organization of the Year at their general meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
This year’s winners were Brian and Nettie Barnes of Barnes Bargains for Business of the Year and Kern Valley Search and Rescue (KVSAR) for Organization of the Year.
The Business and Organization of the Year are chosen every year by nominations from members of the community.
Barnes Bargains was chosen not only for the variety of services that they offer, but also for their tireless support of community organizations.
Brian and Nettie Barnes opened Barnes Bargains in 2003, and in 2006, they expanded the size of their building by an additional 4,000 square feet to accommodate the community’s needs. In addition to foodstuffs, the store is also a major retailer of appliances in the valley and is now the community’s sole furniture retailer.
When asked what kinds of furniture they carry, Brian’s reply was, “The question is more, ‘what kinds don’t we carry?’”
But aside from their success as a retailer, the Barnes have donated to countless community events, including the KRV Chamber’s Night at the Races, the Exchange Club’s Rubber Ducky Races, many high school organizations and more.
Over the last year, they have also contributed products and clothing to the Red Cross and survivors of the Erskine Fire during their rebuilding process. For fire survivors who received their Mobile Housing Units (MHUs) earlier this year, Barnes Bargains contributed washing machines and dryers with free installation.
For the Organization of the Year, KVSAR was the top choice. The Kern River made plenty of headlines this summer because of the influx of snowmelt, and callouts kept KVSAR on their toes.
This year, KVSAR’s 62nd year of operation, they went out on 92 calls so far. They’ve clocked in 10,236 volunteer hours, 3,457 of which were callouts. They performed 55 river rescues, 19 other rescues and four fire evacuations.
KVSAR is made up entirely of volunteers. Captain Tony Talbott has been with KVSAR for about 30 years now, and Training Sergeant Brian Baskin for 17 years. Out of the 27 total volunteers, many of them have at least a decade of volunteering under their belts and are still going strong.
The organization is run entirely on donations, and volunteers are not paid for any of their work. In fact, while donations pay for their large equipment, each volunteer pays for their personal equipment.
Talbott likened the volunteer time as a hobby but quickly corrected himself.
“It’s a passion,” he said.