By STEVEN PENN
Hendricks County United Way Director Susie Friend doesn’t do her work for the recognition, but recently, that’s exactly what she got.
At Tuesday’s annual luncheon, Friend was named the United Way of Central Indiana’s employee of the year.
“It is a great honor to be recognized,” Friend said. “My goodness, I was kind of taken away by it. I was very surprised. I’m certainly sincerely grateful for this honor. I’ve always cherished the opportunity to serve the county.”
Friend said the award wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the people she worked with.
“I tell people I consider this honor that is one to be shared by our county volunteers because ... they actually make my job successful,” Friend said. “They have the team spirit, the community support, and that’s what makes us successful with United Way here in Hendricks County. I was deeply touched by the gesture and quite surprised.”
The luncheon at the Indiana Roof Ballroom served as one of the last gestures for United Way of Central Indiana President and CEO Ellen Annala, who is retiring.
Annala praised Friend for her commitment and touched on some of her accomplishments.
“A county director’s skills span every aspect of the Live United experience: Giving, advocating, and volunteering. Susie immediately dug into all three,” Annala said at the luncheon. “She engaged an army of volunteers in a way that made them feel like the lucky ones. She worked with community leaders to create a new, two-part special event that Hendricks County has owned now for more than a decade: The Breakfast of Champions in the spring, honoring volunteers, and the Wings of Golf in the summer, raising more than $636,000 in 10 years.”
She added that she was happy to present her final award to Friend.
“I started this award seven years ago at this event,” Annala said. “Susie, I am delighted to present you with my final Employee of the Year recognition, and even more delighted to call you a friend.”
Friend said it was an honor to receive the award from Annala and to share it with the Hendricks County volunteers who were in attendance.
“I was so glad that Ellen got to present it to me — I was very happy,” she said. “I was so grateful for a lot of our Hendricks County volunteers being at the annual meeting. We actually had two
Hendricks County tables there with some Hendricks County folks there from different companies, so I certainly appreciated those people being there.”
Friend said when she thinks back on the year, there are several highlights.
“(Hendricks County United Way) made our goal this year,” she said. “We came in at (about) 102 percent of goal. We’re very happy about that. We had several major successes with a lot of United Way company drives this last year.”
Friend said companies that went over their goal included Duke Energy, State Back of Lizton, Vectren Energy, Hendricks Power Cooperative, and Regal Beloit Logistics.
She added that she was excited to be able to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year.
“We’re having our Breakfast of Champions on May 8 at Primo West in Plainfield,” she said. “We’ll be celebrating those successes and we’ll be recognizing companies, agencies, and volunteers at the breakfast. Lin Dunn, the coach for the Indiana Fever, will be there and be our keynote speaker. She will be talking about the importance of giving back to your community.”
She said anyone interested in attending should contact her by calling 745-0314 or by e-mailing to email@example.com.
Looking back on her time with the United Way, Friend said she’s proud of what the organization has been able to accomplish.
“I’ve been working for United Way of Central Indiana and Hendricks County for 13 years,” Friend said. “We were one of the first counties in the United Way of Central Indiana territory to have an office ... We’ve accomplished a lot. When I started in 2000, our county goal was $250,000. We actually raised this year, about $820,000. There’s a lot of potential here in Hendricks County. That money goes toward our four focus areas, which are education, health, income, and basic needs.”
She added that United Way provides several services.
“United Way is involved in early childhood education,” she said. “We have opportunities for reading to children in preschools. United Way agencies actually provide services and programs for those basic needs, health and income priorities. Some of those agencies are
Sheltering Wings, Hendricks County Senior Services, Mental Health of America, and Sycamore Services.”
Friend said she was still in shock in the days since receiving the award.
“I did not (have any idea),” she said. “They were kind of sneaky about it. They made it very surprising, in front of the 900 people that were attending the annual meeting. That was a big deal for me. I’m still in shock. I’ve been getting so many well wishes in e-mails and phone calls.”
The Hendricks County United Way office is at 56 Main St., Danville.
For more information, call the office at 745-0310.