By Brandi Makuski
For the first time in nearly 35 years, the United Way of Portage County is operating without Sue Wilcox in the fold.
Wilcox stepped down from her role as executive director at the end of 2022, but her first official day of retirement was April 3.
She began as a volunteer with the organization in 1989, ascending to the director role in 1998. During her time leading the organization, she helped rally donations totaling more than $71 million to help fund local assistance organizations.
During a brief ceremony at the United Way’s new offices, located in the former Delta Dental building at 2801 Hoover Rd., Wilcox was honored by State Senator Patrick Testin and Rep. Katrina Shankland.
During Wilcox’s time at the helm, she also helped secure a record-breaking $3.321 million in 2022, Shankland said, by “fostering strong, trusting relationships, and dedicating innumerable hours to serving tens of thousands of children, seniors, individuals with disabilities, families in need, and people struggling with their mental health.”
Testin said Wilcox also helped usher in, or improve, Project Fresh Start, the annual rake-a-thon, the Learn for Life tutoring program, annual diaper drive, 211 help line, and various outreach programs for kids from abusive homes.
“She’s given extraordinary years of dedication and commitment. Sue is universally respected in our community,” Testin said.
Shankland said she and Testin regularly attend community events together, and she called presentations like this one a highlight of their jobs.
“It’s truly the best part of the job, celebrating the warm, kind, caring people,” Shankland said. “We normally don’t read the whole citation, but Sue, you are one in a trillion, and we really wanted to recognize you.”
Wilcox accepted the citation with tears in her eyes as she embraced Shankland, then Testin, and thanked the group that had gathered.
She also said she didn’t feel deserving of the recognition.
“I’ve just got to say that this wasn’t me — it was really all of you doing the work,” Wilcox said, waving her hand to those in attendance. “All of you have made a forever mark on my heart and I adore you all, and you’ll never know how deep that goes.”
When Testin asked Wilcox how she planned to spend her retirement. She said she didn’t have anything yet planned.
“Well, given everything that you’ve done, take some time to relax, you deserve it,” Testin said.
State Senator Patrick Testin (left) and Rep. Katrina Shankland honor Sue Wilcox on April 3. (Metro Wire photo)