One might expect a member of our women’s alliance to value courage, kindness, and respect for all voices, but Karen Harkins Farrington, Co-chair of the Persisters seems to live these values in everything she does.
She grew up in Buffalo, New York in a blue-collar family and still feels incredibly lucky she was offered a scholarship to an all-girls private high school. She sees this as a milestone that changed her life in that it opened her eyes to a much wider world of opportunities, as well as built her self-confidence due to the single-gender educational setting. Through the encouragement of her teachers, she gained the courage to stretch herself and live her life adventurously. She studied abroad in France her junior year in college. After college at Washington University in St. Louis, Karen wanted more adventure, so she moved to Colorado.
During her time in Colorado, she realized that she didn’t need a lot of material things and actually being satisfied with less gave her more freedom to explore possibilities. Colorado was also where she met her husband. When he was offered a job in MN, his home state, they moved here to raise their family.
While raising children, Karen became what I will call a super volunteer. She was a Girl Scout leader for six years. She volunteered in a college mentoring program and worked with AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) in the North St. Paul School District. This program targets lower-income students and prepares them for college eligibility and success.
Her most recent volunteer venture is to train and get involved in the Guardian ad Litem program in Hennepin County. Karen explained to me that a Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson — an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. Because there is such a great need for these advocates, Hennepin County has developed volunteer training for this program. Again choosing the compassionate route, Karen has done the training and is now committed to meeting with a child at least once a month as well as attending all the court dates.
Another testament to Karen’s courage is that she is also a cancer survivor. She completed her treatment two years ago in 2017 and says this was a test for her and her family for how important it is to remain positive. It is obvious that Karen is a very positive person. She puts her energy into doing what she can to make the world around her better. Not surprisingly, she was an activist long before her involvement in SCVANOW. Her first march was on April 5th, 1992, at March for Women’s Lives sponsored by NOW when approximately 750,000 women marched in D.C. advocating for pro-choice legislation.
She is still marching, most recently back in D.C. for the March for our Lives in March of 2018 with her husband and 10-year-old son. She joined the Alliance in January of 2017. She, like many of us, was looking for like-minded people to commiserate after the election. She was also hoping to make a difference and become more educated on the issues.
She has been the co-chair of the Human Rights Team (aka the Persisters )since she joined, and feels the best thing SCVANOW has done is to encourage women to find their voices and to speak up about what matters. Her hope is that the Alliance will continue to do this through outreach like the All are Welcome stickers provided to businesses in Stillwater, an initiative organized by the Persisters. She feels we can continue to build a stronger presence in the Valley through initiatives like this and continue to provide inspiring speakers for the community.
Karen is one of the most positive people I have ever met. I learned a lot from her over coffee. What a great boon for us that she is an engaged proactive member of SCVANOW as well as our Valley community.
By Peg Ludtke