Super-volunteer receives Geneva service award

 
 
Updated 11/8/2018 10:57 PM
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  • Scott Lebin of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce presents the Wood Community Service Award to Cheryl "Cookie" Olson on Thursday night.

      Scott Lebin of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce presents the Wood Community Service Award to Cheryl "Cookie" Olson on Thursday night. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Cheryl "Cookie" Olson is the 2018 recipient of the Wood Community Service Award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

    Cheryl "Cookie" Olson is the 2018 recipient of the Wood Community Service Award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

As a fresh college graduate ready to be a teacher, Cheryl "Cookie" Olson of Oklahoma was having a hard time getting a job out West. An aunt who lived in St. Charles who was friends with a school superintendent suggested she give Batavia a try.

That was the start of a now-50-year life of service to the area, particularly the Geneva community, where she and her late husband, Mack, raised their family.

And for her devotion, Olson received the Wood Community Service Award on Thursday from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

"Cookie is the type of person that anyone involved with an organization or charity, or simply anyone in need, can always depend on," said 1997 Wood award winner Dave Rogers, in a testimonial video shown at the annual chamber awards banquet. "She volunteers without being asked, always works tirelessly and enthusiastically, and is almost always behind the scenes doing whatever needs to be done until it is done. She makes the leaders of whatever organization she is involved with look good, because she handles the hard work."

Olson started with the Harrison Street Elementary School PTO. She was co-president of the Geneva High School sports boosters, and served with the Young Mothers Club of Geneva. More recently, she has volunteered for the chamber, the Geneva History Museum, 100 Women Who Care, Geneva Lions Club, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Geneva Beautification Committee, and as a board member for the Geneva Community Chest.

Geneva chamber board chairman Scott Lebin said Olson is known for her dry sense of humor -- and he made her laugh when he said she is so busy, she is known to call her friends and ask. "where am I supposed to be, and what am I supposed to be doing?"

Olson took some time off to raise her children, then started working as an administrative assistant with the Geneva schools. She retired in 2013.

"Since her retirement from paid employment, she is working overtime with her volunteering," Olson's daughter, Erin Watts, said. "She loves meeting new people and making a difference in Geneva and adding value. She most enjoys the social aspect of her volunteering. She has grown her Geneva roots through her involvement and volunteering."

Olson showed her humor in her acceptance speech.

"The taxes in Geneva are high. I'm a widow. I live on a fixed income. I may have to go down to the train station and hold out my hand," she joked. "But I am never leaving Geneva!"

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