- Last Updated on Sunday, 01 June 2014 01:53
The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) has selected Nellie (Housel) Chester to receive its annual Louis E. Waller Humanitarian Award. The award recognizes a local individual or organization devoted to the promotion of human welfare or the advancement of social reform in the community, whether local, national, or international.
"Nellie Chester has been a caring and devoted friend to many individuals in difficult circumstances," remarked William M. Campbell, WCCF Chairman. "Her dedication to feeding the hungry in our community is particularly noteworthy, and the Foundation is pleased to be able to recognize her longstanding efforts through our Waller Humanitarian Award."
Forty years ago, a fire damaged Chester's home, but not her spirit. From the ashes came a lifelong commitment to service, especially to human needs agencies that provide vital assistance to those who are struggling or are in crisis.
"People were so good to our family after the fire. The community hosted a clothing drive and helped us get anything else we needed. So, we decided we were going to pay it forward and help someone else," Chester stated. True to her word, she juggled service activities while raising six children with her husband, Edward.
For nearly 30 years, Chester has been involved with her local food pantry, located in Ellsworth. She developed a highly efficient food distribution system that enabled her to serve approximately 100 pantry clients in an hour. That system then became a model for other county pantries. Additionally, she has worked hard to secure food contributions from local grocers and to advocate for government funding for programs that provide assistance to those in need. Her passion for her work has inspired others, and it is not unusual for as many as 24 volunteers to assist with the pantry's monthly food distribution.
Chester is a past member and past president of the Greater Washington County Food Bank Board of Directors and past president of the Eighty Four Lions Club. She continues to serve her community as the coordinator of the Ellsworth Food Pantry, a voucher writer for the Salvation Army, a supporter of the Great American Food Drive, and a member of the Washington County Democratic Committee.