BATH — Barry Compton was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988 at age 44.
He could have chosen to spend the rest of his life hunkered down at home, trying to minimize his discomfort through medications and weekly visits to the chiropractor’s office.
Or he could have chosen to help others. And that’s exactly what he did.
Compton is not the kind of person who lies around feeling sorry for himself, especially when people and organizations could use his help.
This superstar volunteer has compiled an extraordinary record of service, and he’s still going strong, despite his ongoing physical issues.
“With multiple sclerosis, most of the problems aren’t visible,” Compton said. “People think that because you look fine, you must be fine.”
If you’ve ever said, “I’d like to volunteer, but I just don’t have time,” you might reconsider those words after learning what Compton does for others.
For openers, he volunteers for 24 hours a week at the cafe at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. He serves as one of the cooks, overseeing the preparation of vegetables, the grilling of sandwiches and so on.
“Mid Coast is a nonprofit hospital,” Compton explained. “It couldn’t do what it does without the help of volunteers, because volunteers help keep the costs down.”
He also spends about 10 hours a week serving as chairman of the Bath Area Food Bank, which is run by volunteers from nine churches. “With 25 percent of the kids in Maine going hungry every night, how could you not help?,” Compton said.
His duties with the food bank run the gamut, from organizing deliveries to helping out whenever there’s a shortage of volunteers. He spends much of his time on the essential task of recruiting and motivating volunteers.
There’s still more: Compton serves as the music director at the Church of the Nazarene in Bath.
And more: He spends six weeks every summer as cook at the More to Life Family Campground, a Christian-based family campground in Winthrop. His wife, Darlene, teaches crafts at the campground. Incidentally, Compton enjoys crafts, such as making prayer shawls for others.
And more: He donates blood to the American Red Cross every three months.
And more: Once a week Compton assists at the Community Spray/Neuter Clinic in Freeport. “I’m a sucker when it comes to animals,” he said.
Compton is also a sucker when it comes to his six children and 14 grandchildren, all of whom live in Maine. “Some grandchildren are always around the house,” he said.
What makes Compton serve? “I grew up as a preacher’s kid,” he said, “and with our family it was all about doing things for others.”
When asked what advice he would pass on to young people, Compton tells it straight: “Don’t be self-centered. Think about others. Don’t expect others to take care of you. Have a good work ethic. Find a need and fill it.”
Barry Compton of Bath is a volunteer with several commitments. Here he works in the cafe at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org.