I’m part of a group of women that get together on the first Wednesday night of each month to grab a bite and see a movie.
On one of those recent nights, Jeni, who researches and recommends all the movies, asked me if I had any sway at the Advocate over stories because she had a suggestion. After several minutes of clearing my airway, I explained my volunteer status, but told her I would check.
I never did submit the story idea. Jeni thought it was time for a profile on Sue Willman, a longtime resident of Lake Highlands, and since I’m always looking for column ideas, I decided Jeni’s suggestion would make a good topic for one of my columns.
My first encounter with Sue was over the phone. I had called Lake Highlands United Methodist Church a number of years ago to find out if they had an Easter sunrise service, and if so, where they held it. Sue answered the phone, gave me the information I needed and proceeded to ask me if I had any children, what their ages were and did I think my oldest would be interested in joining the clown ministry. That was the beginning of a very special experience for my daughter. Sue doesn’t miss many opportunities to get people involved.
Sue is the epitome of the pragmatic volunteer. She once told me, “When you see something that needs to be done, you just do it … Volunteering is not something you do for the accolades; you do something because it needs to be done.”
When Sue’s children were in a co-op pre-school, they needed a teacher. Sue volunteered. She ended up teaching for more than 20 years.
Sue is a member of Lake Highlands United Methodist Church and has vested countless hours over the years in programs associated with the church. Sue managed the clown ministry at LHUMC for 20 years, stepping down about five years ago. The clowns were a fixture at elementary school carnivals, senior citizen residences and community gatherings, painting faces and making balloon animals.
Sue has run the church craft group for 15 years. It is a lively group that meets Thursday mornings and is mostly made up of women, but currently includes a male member. The oldest member is 93; the youngest are several home-schooled teenage girls counting the craft group as their art credit. Proceeds from the group’s efforts are used to buy items for the church; currently, the members are working toward a bench for a breezeway.
Sue also acts as a make-up artist for ACT, the annual youth musical. This church production takes months of preparation each year. In her younger days, she also helped with the lighting, but her son has now taken on that role.
The next time you are in the Audelia Branch Library enjoying the collection in the exhibit case, you can thank Sue. Exhibits have included corn husk dolls, Santas in July and LP record covers. She already has the 2008 exhibits planned.
Sue is a busy woman and clearly enjoys her life. She is a creative person who has found a way to put her energy, imagination and talents to good use. When asked, Sue will tell you she simply enjoys doing the things she does, enjoys meeting different people with interesting stories to share, and hopes that each day she can help someone who needs a little help that day.
It’s January, a time of year when many of us reflect upon our lives and think about changes we’d like to make in the New Year. I’d like to propose that instead of resolving to lose a few pounds or give up sodas in the coming year, you think instead about giving a few more hours of your time to someone or some group who could benefit from your special attention or experiences.
Our neighborhood — our world — could use a few more Sues.