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Housing Advocate Honored

Hill honored for long-time social activism

Tower native Karen Hill was honored last week at the Bill Noyes Forum on Social Action and Social Change. Hill, who has worked for Legal Assistance of Northeastern Minnesota for the last 17 years, was presented an award in Noyes’ name for her work as a “tireless advocate for the people.”

The forum is held annually to promote citizen activism and remember the contribution of longtime Tower resident Bill Noyes, who died in 1998 of cancer. Among his other accomplishments, Noyes spearheaded the founding of the Community Soup Kitchen in Virginia, located at The Salvation Army.

Noyes worked in crisis intervention for Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency and was a friend and advocate to many, many area residents in need.

The forum was sponsored by The Salvation Army, the Family Investment Center, and RESULTS-a social and economic justice citizens lobby.

Range Mental Health staff member Sandy Wallin presented the award to Hill, sharing the comments of Hill’s co-workers and friends.

Lorrie Janatopolus of AEOA said, “I can’t think of a better advocate. She tells it like she sees it and she is tough when she needs to be. Her compassion, however is unsurpassed and along with her mouth, her heart is always engaged.”

Legal Aid co-worker Bill Maxwell wrote: “If there existed a comprehensive dictionary that defined terms with reference to people, there would be the following entries: Social Action-see Karen Hill; Social Change-see Karen Hill; Social Justice-see Karen Hill. Karen is the soul and spirit of how these words and ideas should be defined… I am positive Bill would be proud to have this award in his name given to his and our fellow advocate, confidante, comrade, and most of all friend, Karen Hill.”

Gary Eustice of Range Mental Health Center said, “Karen has taught me that commitment to the less privileged needs to be a lifestyle. One needs to breathe, eat, and jubilantly beat the drum for advocacy. No one is more deserving of the Bill Noyes Award than Karen. She exemplifies all the characteristics of our fallen friend-empathy, compassion, resilience, and a steadfast desire to leave a better world than she found.”

Ten community agency representatives and consumers spoke on the forum topic:”What Happens When Welfare Is Gone?” They spoke of their concern for what kind of an alternative safety net will be developed to meet the needs of people who are unable to meet the strict work requirements of welfare reform when the five-year lifetime limit for assistance runs out in just under two years.

Panelists pointed to areas which need legislative remedies at the state and federal level, such as child care, education, health care, and housing, and issues which members of the local community will need to address, such as the increasing need for emergency food. Call 741-5485 for more information.