Neilson selected as Troutman Citizen of the Year

Posted at 4:54 PM on May 5, 2019



The Troutman Town Council in April select Karen Neilson as one of two Citizens of the Year. The council made the unprecedented move because both candidates were so deserving of the honor, according to member Judy Jablonski, who made the motion.

Shying from the limelight, Neilson was dumbfounded when she learned that she had received the honor after J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library program director Shellie Kenndy nominated her for the recognition.

Neilson, who retired after 36 years as an educator at Troutman Elementary School, affected generations of students and parents from the town and surrounding area, and she continues to serve her community.

Mayor Teross Young and the Troutman Town Ccouncil will formally present the honor to Neilson and co-recipient Chuck Gallyon during the May 9 council meeting at 7 p.m.

A native of Georgia, Neilson was a military kid who bounced around the world with her Navy dad, her mom, and three siblings. She came to this area to go to Queens College in Charlotte in 1967.

After graduation, she interviewed with Iredell County Schools and got the job on the spot. “I’ve been here ever since,” she said.

As a volunteer at the Troutman library, Neilson continues to influence others to enjoy books as much as she does. “I taught elementary school, and you focus on reading skills, and I’ve always been a reader, my whole life,” she added.

She enjoys browsing through new books as they arrive and seeing friends and former students as she volunteers on Wednesdays and Thursdays each week. “I’ve always been one to give back to the community. That’s the way I was raised.”

Neilson believes the library is an important conduit to bring the joys of reading books back to folks in Troutman. She worries that reading is becoming “a thing of the past. There’s so much social media, but there’s so much knowledge in books too.”

She encourages parents of reluctant readers to entice them into reading by checking out books related to their interests, hobbies, skills, or sports. When she took her students to the library, she always steered them toward books that she knew would appeal to their individual tastes.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church also benefits from Neilson’s talents. She is an active member of the quilting mission, which takes donated fabrics, cuts it into 11-inch squares, and designs tops to be stitched together at home by group members. The ladies then regather to finish the quilts with fillers and stitches.

The quilters send their creations to Lutheran World Relief and disaster organizations as well as local entities such as Fifth Street Ministries, My Sister’s House, and individual families in need.

The group of about a dozen church members has also made smaller quilts for law enforcement officers to carry so they can wrap up children who are scared or cold after car accidents or other incidents. Since January they have created 80 quilts for various recipients.

Neilson is also on the Missions Committee and is supporting a group from Trinity that went to Haiti last week. Though she could not go for personal reasons, Neilson raised money and gathered supplies for the group.

She also chairs the altar guild, which prepares the altar elements and sets up for communion.

When she’s not volunteering, Neilson spends time with husband Graham and her two sons, Christopher and Michael, and their families. She is a proud grandparent of her two granddaughters, Avery (age 2) and Grace (4 months).

Kennedy is thankful to have such a dedicated, knowledgeable volunteer. “She does so much in this community. She’s here twice a week shelving because we had a scheduling snafu and needed someone, so she stepped in.”

Neilson also serves as secretary of Troutman Friends of the Library. “She does a lot for the library. She volunteers to help at the Christmas party, at our table at Front Porch Fest. She’s always available when I need her.”

“If I need her for anything extra, I can always call or email her and she responds instantly. She’ll do pretty much anything for the library!”

Since the library has been short-staffed recently, Neilson often steps in to assist them. 

In the kids’ section, Neilson’s long years in education make her an excellent resource for assisting patrons in book selection and in the tedious job of shelving and organizing the books in the area.

Kennedy said her knowledge of the community was an invaluable resource. “She such a presence. She’s always out there doing stuff and doesn’t want to take any credit for it. I thought it as time someone recognized her.”

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