Citizen of the Year: Sue Anderson

Gray Hughes

In a year that had so much uncertainty one thing was known for sure: Sue Anderson will be out there helping in way that she can.

That is why she has been named the Hill City Prevailer News Citizen of the Year for 2020.

“We all went into a challenging year that none of us knew or understood how to cope,” said Dale Householder, president of the Hill City Senior Center. “It was quite a learning curve for everybody. And (Anderson) was right up there, helping lead the learning curve and being a leader in that group.”

Anderson has an iron in every fire, as Householder puts it, and gets involved with pretty much anything she can.

When he thinks of Anderson, Householder has three descriptors that come to mind: she’s always bubbly, she comes in with a positive attitude and a positive spin on everything and she’s so appreciative of what gets done.

Householder said she is a core group of Hill City volunteers who never say “no” when asked to help.

She keeps going and going, Householder said, and truly is Hill City’s Energizer Bunny.

“We so enjoy having (Anderson) around here to help with various projects,” Householder said.

She helps volunteer at the senior center, helping to ensure the events the senior center puts on — such as its breakfasts — go off without a hitch. She is involved with the Hill City Food Pantry, her church and the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce.

This year, during a time when so many seniors felt isolated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson worked to ensure seniors didn’t feel isolated.

“She was making calls to some of the older folks she knew were not leaving their homes to see if she could do anything or bring anything,” said Mary Walton, former director of the senior center. “She worked hard to keep her own self positive and to help others, too, remain positive and to let people know there is a helping hand out there.”

During the beginning of the pandemic, Anderson helped organize an outdoor coffee hour where seniors were able to talk to one another in a social distanced setting. For many seniors, it was one of the first times they were able to socialize and be with fellow seniors during the beginning of the pandemic.

The senior center is very appreciative of what Anderson does, Householder said.

“. You can always picture (Anderson) with her little chicken hat singing the ‘Chicken Song.’ ...That’s how I think of her when she comes to the senior center,” Householder said. “She helps with decorating — our Christmas and Halloween decorations, whatever. She’s always there helping with that.”

Perhaps one of the things Anderson is best known for is the Purse Project. Every year, Anderson gathers gently used purses along with toiletries and notepads. She, along with help from others, stuffs the purses with goods and donates them to women in need at Cornerstone Mission and WEAVE.

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson was unable to do the Purse Project this year.

But that didn’t stop her.

Anderson still called on donations to these causes to ensure that women in need still received the help they need.

Anderson also helps coordinate the Bag Project at the Community Lutheran Church. During the Lent season, patrons can drop off goods at the church. Anderson and others stuff the bags and sees them donated to women in need once again.

Anderson, too, is crucial in marketing Hill City.

“(Anderson) is one of our top ambassadors and sets the standard for ‘welcoming hospitality,’” said Janet Wetovick-Bily, executive director of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce. “Not only does she greet everyone who comes through our door at the Visitor Information Center — or on the phone — with a cheerful greeting and offer to help, she assists us at our chamber events  — such as mixers, concert, annual dinner, Easter Egg Hunt and Boo Bash — and took on a new role by greeting our charter buses downtown as a ‘step-on tour guide’ ambassador for Hill City.”

Wetovick-Bily said Anderson is always willing to help when there is something that can be done for the good of Hill City — whether it’s leading a volunteer effort, spearheading or being on a committee, supporting a friend through a challenging time, welcoming guests at a chamber or community event or helping those she doesn’t know through volunteering.

Anderson is one of those extraordinary people whose love and generosity knows no bounds, Wetovick-Bily said, and the community is better off for it.

“(Anderson) is what I call ‘love personified,’” Wetovick-Bily said. “She is truly a rare gem. Exceptional. An incredible role model. And she is beloved by many.”

Anderson, Wetovick-Bily said, is the first person to say, “yes” to anything. She is fiercely loyal to Hill City and to every one of her friends and, as Wetovick-Bily said, she counts everyone as a friend.

Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City’s mayor, said it’s hard to find the appropriate words to describe Anderson.

Anderson, Skorzewski said, is a thoughtful, kind and caring person and is always there for Hill City.

“From the Christmas Purse drive to her selfless acts in helping others in need despite the risk to her with COVID-19, (Anderson) is a true gem,” Skorzewski said. “She is a Hill City anchor and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than her.”

Anderson, Skorzewski said, is someone who adds to the Heart of the Hills.

As for what Anderson’s reaction will be when she reads this story and is named Citizen of the Year, Walton said Anderson will be “completely shocked.”

“And her first reaction will probably be, ‘Oh, why would they give this to me? There are so many people,’” Walton said. “That would be my guess.”

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