By Roger Harris, Tennessee Ledger
Creating hundreds of jobs and bringing millions of dollars in capital to East Tennessee isn’t the only way businessman Eric Barton is having an impact on the region.
Barton, 39, president and CEO of Maryville-based transportation, security and logistics company Vanquish Worldwide, is also a major financial supporter of area charities, nonprofits, first responders and veterans.
Over the last two years, Barton, who has an ownership interest in more than 20 companies, has donated more than $6.8 million to charities.
A retired Marine Corps officer, Barton has focused much of his giving on wounded warrior therapy programs, educational nonprofits, and charitable and conservation efforts in the Appalachian and Cumberland areas of Tennessee.
The Blount Partnership, a business advocacy group, recognized Barton’s charitable giving by naming him Philanthropist of the Year in 2014.
As his companies’ revenue continue to grow, so will his charitable donations, said Barton. Helping others is an important part of his business philosophy.
“One person can make a difference. We talk about it a lot here, one person is all it takes. It’s not two or 10 or 20, it’s one. If one person helps one person – that’s enough. If you’re fortunate enough to help two or three that’s great,” Barton says.
Several of Barton’s businesses are directly involved in charitable giving.
LexLin Ranch, a horse breeding operation in Rockwood, is in the second year of its Gypsy Gift program, which donates Gypsy Vanner horses to accredited equine therapy centers across the country.
Gypsy Vanners are small draft horses that have a gentle manner, making them ideal for work as therapy horses, Barton explains.
Vanquish also supports the Smoky Mountain Service Dogs organization, which provides service dogs to disabled veterans. In August, Vanquish sponsored a baseball jersey auction at a Tennessee Smokies minor league game to raise money for the service dog organization.
“We are grateful for our strong partnership with Vanquish Worldwide and LexLin Ranch, and their continued support to assist us in providing service dogs to our wounded heroes,” says Mike Kitchens, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs Volunteer Chair.
In addition to financial contributions to various organizations, Barton has funded college scholarships and held community events to honor the sacrifice of veterans, law enforcement and emergency responders.
In June this year, Vanquish hosted an appreciation day at its Maryville headquarters for police, fire and emergency medical personnel in Blount, Campbell, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Anderson, Sevier and Roane counties. More than 200 first responders attended.
Among the scholarships Barton has established is a $100,000 endowment at the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
“We named him philanthropist of the year for a reason,” explains Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Blount Partnership. “Eric supports the community and supports the initiatives we have going here. We are very fortunate that he has his headquarters here.”
Fortunate, indeed. Barton could have gone anywhere to start his business, but he and his wife, Mechelle, were always impressed with East Tennessee. Eric, who grew up in Illinois, and Mechelle, who is from North Carolina, often passed through East Tennessee when visiting family.
“When I left the United States Marine Corps and began my entrepreneurial career, we felt that East Tennessee, specifically Blount County, was the perfect location to start our business and raise our family,” Barton says.
They plan to stay. The Bartons five children – all of whom have worked summers for the family businesses – have put down roots in Tennessee.
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