Suzy Campbell, a long-time community volunteer from Lincoln championing the needs of family caregivers, has been selected to receive AARP Nebraska’s highest volunteer award. She is the 15th volunteer to be honored with the annual AARP Nebraska Andrus Award for Community Service since 2002.
Campbell’s charity, Lincoln Community Foundation, is a big winner, too. On Sept. 16, AARP Nebraska presented the organization with a check for $2,500 on behalf of Campbell, who has been active as a volunteer in the community for more than 20 years. During the event, the foundation announced that it would match Campbell's donation to help support caregivers.
As a volunteer leader and mentor to others, she has worked extensively with the Alzheimer’s Association, Caregiver Education Group, Caregiver Chicks, Southeast Nebraska Respite Network and Nebraska Caregiver Coalition. Campbell was also part of a collaborative effort creating an endowment for the Lincoln Community Foundation called the Caregiver Relief Fund to provide respite funding for caregivers needing a break. She donated the initial $1,000 and currently keeps the endowment going.
Mary Shada, one of Campbell’s nominators for the award, said, “Suzy has made it her goal in life to fight for caregivers’ rights in the workplace and at home. She has worked diligently to educate caregivers on resources that are available to ease the constant burden they carry. She once was a caregiver herself, and knows how difficult it is for a person to give constant care day after day with very little relief.”
Since 1994, Campbell has volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association, forming walking teams to raise public awareness of the disease. She founded the Caregiver Education Group to hold educational programs throughout the community including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Bryan Hospital, Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center and nursing care facilities. She was one of the original six Caregiver Chicks, who developed a popular “caregiver organizer” to help caregivers keep track of important medical information for their loved ones. Campbell now speaks about this resource and distributes it in the community.
In his nomination letter, Nebraska Tax Commissioner and former State Sen. Tony Fulton credited Campbell for her successful efforts to help create the Nebraska Respite Network through legislation.
“I have seen and been inspired by Suzy’s work as a business owner in the eldercare industry, as a senator making decisions for Nebraska, and now as a cabinet member of the Governor,” he said. “She has multiplied her efforts by moving others to help others. The many groups she has founded or worked for have engaged hundreds – if not thousands – of volunteers over the years. Suzy has left a lasting mark on many.”
Most recently, Campbell represented the Nebraska Caregiver Coalition to push for passage of the Assisting Caregiver Transitions Act during the 2016 legislative session. The new state law helps support family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.
Nominator Joyce Kubicek summed up Campbell’s lasting impact as a volunteer in Lincoln and beyond.
“Suzy cared for her father and husband, providing end of life care. But she still reached out to the community because her concern was not limited to her own family. She has recognized the need to recruit others to her causes, whether they are in the legislative realm, business community, legal field, human services or caregivers who have personal experience. Her vision has helped her accomplish and maintain groups and programs over many years.”
Bob Eppler, state president of AARP Nebraska, praised Campbell for her commitment to volunteering, and for improving the lives of age 50-plus Nebraskans through advocacy, information and service.
“Through her astounding record of service, Suzy Campbell demonstrates what it means to make a difference in the lives of others, especially to Nebraska caregivers and their loved ones. The Andrus Award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” Eppler said. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors and the programs they serve.”
Andrus Award recipients across the nation were chosen for their ability to enhance the lives of AARP members and prospective members, improve the community in or for which the work was performed, and inspire others to volunteer.