Milly Bloomquist: An inspiring local legend
PENN YAN--Mary Camilla "Milly" Bloomquist died Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Bloomquist's tireless devotion to community service leaves a legacy of caring in Penn Yan and Yates County.
Bloomquist always said helping others came naturally to her. She said when she was young, her mother prepared soup for unemployed men in the Washington, D.C. area while she and her brother delivered the soup.
Bloomquist and her late husband, Earl (Bud), moved to Yates County in 1958 when he took a position with Keuka College. Bloomquist served as school nurse at Penn Yan elementary school. During this time she saw many families' need for a helping hand, particularly for food. Her outlook on providing food was simple. Bloomquist said no one asks for food unless they need it.
During their early married years in the area, the couple collected new and used toys in their basement for local children. For more than 30 years, Milly Bloomquist created and operated numerous programs to help the poor and underserved in Penn Yan and Yates County. She founded Food for the Needy and Christmas for the Needy. The project is now called the Yates County Christmas for the Needy and the program serves more than 400 families annually with food, clothes and toys.
Bloomquist was presented with the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, by President Barack Obama. She was one of 13 recipients for the annual presidential award, the nation's second-highest civilian honor. Bloomquist was selected from a group of 6,000 candidates from across the nation. Bloomquist received the Citizens Medal for her lifelong commitment to serving those in need. Obama said the recipients of the Citizens Medal come from different backgrounds, but they share a commitment to a cause greater than themselves. "They exemplify the best of what it means to be an American," Obama said. Past recipients have included some of America's most respected public figures including Colin Powell, Bob Dole and Muhammad Ali, but also everyday heroes like Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who left her entire life savings to establish a scholarship fund for students in need.
People who worked with Milly said she worked with a big smile and an even bigger heart. Whether it was a can of food or clothing she was providing, she showed the person she really cared for them.