Former director of The Access named 2021 Distinguished Citizen

By Joseph Slacian

Liz Hobbs was duped into attending the Grow Wabash County annual dinner on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Hobbs, former director of The Access Youth Center, was attending under the pretense that her counterpart at The Access Learning Academy, Laura Helm, was to be named the 2021 Distinguished Citizen.

But when 2020 Distinguished Citizen Doug Adams was reading the 2021 recipient’s biography, Hobbs quickly realized it was she that he was speaking about.

“Yikes,” she said after receiving her plaque. “I was under the distinct impression that this was going to go to Laura Helm, which would have been well deserved. It does tell me, though, that I am surrounded by people who have a little trouble telling the truth, because her name isn’t on here, but mine is.”

She thanked Grow Wabash County for the honor, and Adams for reading the introduction.
“There’s no one else I would rather have up here reading that,” she said.

Distinguished Citizen, she said, means something different to everyone.

“I can tell you that, in my last 16 years at The Access, that I have walked with a lot of distinguished citizens,” she said. “Some of them are in here tonight. Some of them would probably not be on this stage. It occurs to me that I would like to take this and duplicate it and take it around and deliver it to houses right now, because I have a whole list of people, in my head, that I think should have this award.

“Foster parents, who should be everybody’s hero; single moms; teenage moms; grandparents who are raising their grandkids; kiddos who are dealing with adult problems, and doing it pretty well, all of them are distinguished citizens. It doesn’t seem like delivering this plaque all around town is a really good plan, so since I have a little bit of a captive audience right now, I’m going to say this: In our daily routine, our weekly routine, if we could all just think of someone we know, or someone we see all the time but we don’t really know them, maybe we can make a plan to get to know them. Ask questions about their families. Compliment them on their work. Because, the distinguished citizens I know are sometime seen and not heard, but man, they could teach us an awful lot.

“So, I’m grateful to know them. Thank you.”

A Rochester native, Hobbs graduated from North Miami High School and attended Indiana Wesleyan University where she studied Christian ministries and addictions counseling.

“Our distinguished citizen has a creative spirit,” Adams said. “In addition to being an avid reader – especially mysteries and who-done-its, they are a guitar player. They are a painter – painter – painting rooms is their specialty, and they love to create new colors by mixing whatever paint remnants they have around. They are a dog lover and have adopted two rescue dogs in the last few years.

“That creative spirit is on display in every aspect of their life. One person we interviewed for our research said that our DC’s favorite way to begin a sentence is, ‘I have an idea … ‘ and we know that a new program is being born.”

Adams continued, saying the greatest compliment one could say about Hobbs came from a loved one who said, “`Their greatest gift is that they will help anyone at any time when there is a need. If (she) knows or hears of anyone who needs anything, they will work tirelessly to be of assistance.’ That makes them very special, and all of us can only hope that others would say the same thing about us.”

In addition to her work at The Access, Hobbs served as an associate pastor at New Foundations Ministries, as part of Hands of Hope Women’s Shelter, served on the Wabash City Schools Board, and has raised money for cancer research, of which she is a survivor.

Hobbs award was one of several given Thursday night during the annual dinner.

MPS Egg Farms was named the 2021 Business of the Year.

In addition, Curt Campbell, former Southwood High School ag teacher and former Purdue Cooperative Extension Educator, was named the 2021 Grow Wabash County Volunteer of the Year.

“We rely on our volunteers for so many of our functions, from our programming to our leadership board of directors to all our committees to pull off most of our major events,” Keith Gillenwater, Grow Wabash County President and CEO, said in introducing Campbell. “Our Volunteer of the Year this year is a long-term volunteer who is as solid and reliable as they come.”

Beside his work at Southwood and the Purdue Extension, Campbell is a longtime FFA advisor and continues to be involved in Grow Wabash County’s Salute to Ag event, as well as other things around the community.

“Upon retiring from the Purdue Extension in 2019, a new scholarship was established in his honor to help support a graduating senior who is planning to pursue a career in agriculture,” Gillenwater said. “Affectionately known as the ‘Chicken Man’ to a generation of Wabash County elementary students, our Volunteer of the Year has taught embryology classes where he sets up egg incubators in fourth grade classrooms so students can learn about the life cycle of an egg from fertilization to hatching – and very appropriate given our Business of the Year honoree this year.

“Personally, I look forward to planning for the Salute to Ag eent each year – in part because I always look forward to chatting with our honoree about what is going on in the ag sector of our community.”

Posted on 2021 Oct 20