Hatteberg's People - Opal Wilson

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Many of us, through our companies, have attended United Way Presentations. Usually, the spokesperson is a banker, lawyer, mayor or other community member most people would recognize. Not so in Reno County and Hutchinson, and no one is complaining. There, 98-year-old Opal Wilson is the head of the United Way Campaign.

"That's what I do. I just keep on going," said Wilson.

There she is. At nearly 99, Opal Wilson is the Chair of the United Way Campaign for Reno County. On a recent morning, she was at Promise Regional Medical Center to promote the campaign.

"She naturally engages people. She's endearing and she naturally inspires people where ever she goes," said Tona Turner, Executive Director of United Way of Reno County.

Opal works the room like a veteran, telling folks that when they give to the United Way a portion of the money goes to Hutchinson's Elmdale 50-Plus Center, which is a United Way-supported Seniors program.

"It's not only me, it's everyone who comes down there. It helps us all," said Wilson. "It's a place to go, it keeps me occupied and I know I have friends down there. I get to see everybody this way. I get to say hello to everybody."

Wilson was named the Kansas Volunteer of the year last year. She loves riding in power parachutes. Motorcycles fit her just fine and so does dancing. Who knows what else this ageless woman is doing. She just keeps going.

"Yeah, this keeps me limbered up," said Wilson.

'Going' is what Wilson's life is all about. As she gives presentations all over Reno County, she talks about the time she broke her hip and how the Elmdale 50-Plus Center helped her rehabilitate.

"A little lady said, Opal, I haven't had my hug, so I went to give her a hug. My body turned, but my feet didn't. I landed on the floor and broke my hip. The doctor told me, he said, Opal, when anybody your age breaks a hip, it's hospital, nursing home and cemetery, all in the same year. I said, hey, get me out of that category, I've got places to go and people to aggravate and I've been doing it ever sense."

"She's real life, people can identify with her. Her story reflects everyday life," said Turner.

"Because you are helping a lot of people," said Wilson. "If you've got a mother or a dad or grandparents at home, tell them to get off their fanny and get down there because we will keep them going."

Opal has done over 125 United Way presentations this year. That work, plus her work at the Senior Center, her refusal to sit in a rocking chair and her activities of helping others are the key to her longevity.

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