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Local News

Woman of the Year honor surprises 50-year resident

Susan Bielenda accepts her award as the 2014 Lombard Woman of the Year on April 10 from the Lombard Service League. (Photo provided)
Susan Bielenda accepts her award as the 2014 Lombard Woman of the Year on April 10 from the Lombard Service League. (Photo provided)

LOMBARD – Susan Bielenda is no stranger to volunteerism.

Between nearly a quarter decade as a member of the Lombard Junior Women's Club, local PTAs, the inaugural female on the board of the Lombard Baseball League and various other local, regional and state organizations, Bielenda has been busy giving back.

Bielenda was named the 2014 Lombard Woman of the Year by the Lombard Service League on April 10. A Lombard resident for more than 50 years, Bielenda is the director of the Cooperative Nursery School of Lombard, 220 S. Main St.

"I was very surprised," Bielenda said. "Certainly honored, but very surprised."

The Lombard Service League has given the award annually since the 1960s, said Anna Weselak, chairwoman of the Woman of the Year contest.

"The contest is an annual selection of a [Lombard] woman who has made a difference to someone, to an organization or to their family," Weselak said. "Sue has a very long history of participation in the community."

Candidates are entered into the contest through a nomination process in which local residents, business owners and organizations are invited to nominate a distinguished woman for her community involvement. Each nomination includes a letter of recommendation.

Bielenda received three, including one from her husband, John.

"He's always been very supportive and I couldn't have done all this over the years without him," Bielenda said.

The nomination letters are read anonymously by an independent panel of three judges, Weselak said.

"Overall, the judges look for things like continual service, leadership and contributions to Lombard," Weselak said. "Their decision was a very difficult one – every single [candidate] was very worthy."

One of Bielenda's responsibilities as Lombard Woman of the Year will be to ride in this year's Lilac Festival Parade on May 18.

"I've been in the parade since 1997 [with the coop], but we've always walked – I've never rode in it," she said.

Bielenda, who has cut back her volunteer efforts in recent years to spend more time with her four grandchildren, said the one position she has never held on a board is treasurer.

"The only thing people won't let me do is work with money," she joked.

A display honoring Bielenda as the Lombard Woman of the Year will be available for viewing in the Helen Plum Memorial Library, 110 W. Maple St.

_ _ _ _ _

About Bielenda

Current organizations:

• Lombard Junior Women's Club

• DuPage Association for the Education of Young Children

• General Federation of Women's Clubs

Past organizations:

• Northern Illinois Food Pantry

• DuPage PADS

• First Church of Lombard

• Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts

• Lombard Baseball League

• PTA at Glenbard East, Hammerschmidt Elementary

• Friends of the Helen Plum Memorial Library

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