by April Scheinoha
It’s second nature for Thief River Falls resident Elvera Cullen to support her community – whether it’s through volunteering or attending community events like the Annie Street Park fundraiser at the Rusty Nail.
Cullen has been named a 2017 Pennington County Outstanding Senior. She and fellow honoree Jim Counter will be honored during the Senior Citizen Program at the 2017 Pennington County Fair. The program will be held Friday, July 14 at 1 p.m. in the Tri-Valley bus garage on the fairgrounds.
The award was a surprise to Cullen. “There are many other deserving people, too,” she said.
Glenice Johnson, who was named a Pennington County Outstanding Senior in the past, nominated Cullen for the honor. “I have admired Elvera Cullen ever since moving to Thief River Falls 20 years ago,” wrote Johnson. “She is one of the most involved, active, community-minded women I’ve ever known. She is genuinely enthused about activities, events, speakers, programs, theatrical and musical performances, and community forums held here and effectively spreads the word through emails, phone calls, personal invitations and group announcements to be sure ‘everyone’ possible attends or participates.”
Johnson noted that Cullen is a model member of the organizations in which she is active. “She regularly expands the group’s membership and success by always ‘recruiting’ newcomers, neighbors or coworkers to join or become involved in some project or discussion,” Johnson wrote. “She can always be relied upon to chair a particular event or to assist in a project, and always follows through to complete any responsibility for which she has volunteered. And her friendly smile, and enthusiastic request for others to volunteer with her, guarantee a successful outcome. We know if Elvera is ‘in charge,’ it will be well done.”
Cullen, a former high school English teacher and real estate agent, serves on the boards of five local organizations. She is a member of Thief River Falls Public Library Board, Northwest Regional Library Board, Heritage Center Board, American Legion Auxiliary Board, and Northwest Regional Development Commission (based in Warren).
Cullen is a longtime member of the Legion Auxiliary and became more active in the organization after deciding not to seek reelection to the Thief River Falls City Council in 2014. She serves as the Girls State chairperson for the Auxiliary. Ever the champion of her community, Cullen said, “I think that is such a wonderful opportunity for the girls.”
Girls State is an opportunity for high school junior girls to attend a week of activities in which they learn about the government.
Cullen’s involvement with the Heritage Center also increased after she left public government. A Heritage Center member for quite a while, she recently joined the senior center’s advisory board. Serving on the council took quite a bit of time since she attended two council meetings a month as well as many committee and commission meetings.
In the past, Cullen has served as president of the American Association of University Women and as a board member of the Sanford Health Auxiliary. Her involvement continues with both organizations. She coordinates the AAUW’s delivery of Falls Delivered Meals when it’s AAUW’s turn to do so. She also volunteers to deliver the meals when each organization is scheduled to do so.
Cullen is a parishioner at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Thief River Falls. She volunteered frequently at the church in the past until she faced some health challenges. However, she continues to bake bars for funerals. “I can always cook and bake,” said Cullen, who noted she is also sometimes called into action to bake items for her granddaughter Angel.
Angel is among Cullen’s 17 grandkids. She also has six kids.
When she isn’t busy with her family or her volunteer activities, Cullen may be exercising as part of the Bone Builders program. She also may be playing bridge with friends or family members. She recently spent time with her sisters and sister-in-law. The four of them spent many hours playing the card game. Knowing Cullen, one can expect there was a lot of laughter involved.