President Barack Obama awards Presidential Citizens Medal to Milly Bloomquist
WASHINGTON D.C.–Milly Bloomquist of Penn Yan was presented with the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, by President Barack Obama, on Thursday, Oct. 20.
Bloomquist was one of 13 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. Bloomquist was selected from a group of 6000 candidates from across the nation. For over 30 years, Milly Bloomquist has created and operated numerous programs to help the poor and underserved in Penn Yan, New York, making her a living legend. She founded Food for the Needy and Christmas for the Needy. Recently, she implemented the Weekend Backpack Program in Yates County, where children receive free meals at their schools. Bloomquist receives the Citizens Medal for her lifelong commitment to serving those in need. "This year’s recipients of the Citizens Medal come from different backgrounds, but they share a commitment to a cause greater than themselves,” said President Obama. “They exemplify the best of what it means to be an American, and I am honored to be able to offer them a small token of our appreciation.” 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. During a recent conversation, Milly Bloomquist said she came by volunteer work naturally. Bloomquist recalled when she was a youngster, her mother prepared soup for unemployed men in Washington, D.C. Bloomquist 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. During their early years in the area, the couple collected new and used toys in their basement for local children. Bloomquist said now there are two rooms of items: one at First Baptist Church and the other at the Penn Yan Armory. The project expanded over the years to include food and clothing. It is known now as Christmas for the Needy. Last year more than 500 families participated, including about 1,000 children. Another project Bloomquist has been closely connected to is the Backpack Program. This relatively new program provides students with food for weekends. Bloomquist served as school nurse at Penn Yan Elementary School for many years. 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. Bloomquist likes the fact that both programs are run entirely by volunteers, resulting in no overhead. The Citizens Medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. Like last year, President Obama is recognizing Americans this year whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention. In May, the President called on members of the public to nominate people in their lives who have performed exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs, including individuals: Who have a demonstrated commitment to service in their own community or in communities farther from home. Someone who has engaged in activities that have had an impact in their local community, on a community or communities elsewhere in the United States, or on fellow citizens living or stationed around the world. Who have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts. Individuals who have demonstrated notable skill and grace, selflessly placed themselves in harm’s way, taken unusual risks or steps to protect others, made extraordinary efforts to further a national goal, or otherwise conducted themselves admirably when faced with unusually challenging circumstances. Whose service relates to a long-term or persistent problem. Individuals who have made efforts to combat stubbornly persistent problems that impact entire communities; for example, those who have taken innovative steps to address hunger, homelessness, the dropout crisis, lack of access to health care, and other issues that plague too many Americans. Whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.The ideal nominee for a Citizens Medal is a person whose work has had a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of others.