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Plugging away, going strong

South Boston News
Mildred Jolly / November 22, 2017
The passage of time has confined Mildred Jolly of Clarksville to a wheelchair, but it hasn’t kept this remarkable 96-year-old from plugging away as she long has done to raise money for the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association and the Mecklenburg County Cancer Association.

Since 2013, Jolly has raised $57,025 for these groups while residing at Sentara MeadowView Terrace nursing home in Clarksville.

“Mom wants to help everyone she can. It gives her purpose and I’m thankful she has the will and desire to keep doing it,” said Rachel West, Jolly’s daughter. West said she has the same conversation with her mother every year, asking how long she intends to go on fundraising for the health care advocacy organizations. “Well, I don’t know if I’ll do this next year or not.” West said of the annual exchange, which she recounted with a smile. “She’s been saying that for years!”

Jolly has many reasons for her passionate support of the American Cancer Society, beginning with the loss of her mother to leukemia in 1963, followed by the 2006 loss of her son Robert to stomach cancer.

Sherry Means, retired coordinator for Mecklenburg Relay for Life said, “Mildred is a pillar in the community and everyone loves and respects her .… She always made it known what causes were important to her and why she was so dedicated to supporting their mission including the ACS.”

Mildred Jolly moved into Sentara MeadowView Terrace in 2013. Her fund raising began 50 years earlier in 1963 after her mother died of leukemia.

She wanted friends to send a memorial donation to the American Cancer Society in lieu of sending flowers. No one handled this in Clarksville, but she found someone in Chase City who collected memorial donations. She reflected on that, and decided: “Well, Clarksville needs someone, so I did it.”

“I sent a card to the family and a thank you to the donor,” Jolly explained. Jolly handled memorial donations in Clarksville for the American Cancer Society until the program ended in 2007.

Beginning in 1966, Jolly joined the American Cancer Society’s Notes For Neighbors program, which encouraged door to door collections by individuals. As chairperson for the Clarksville fundraising effort, Jolly recruited one person from every block in Clarksville to collect in their neighborhood door to door.

The American Cancer Society discontinued Notes for Neighbors when Relay for Life came to Mecklenburg County in the mid-1990s. No records exist for Jolly’s fundraising efforts from 1966-2012 because The American Cancer Society did not begin keeping records of volunteer fundraising until 2012.

Jolly’s church, Jamison Memorial United Methodist, formed a Relay for Life Team in 1994. Between the years 1994 – 2009, the Jamieson team participated every year, even though the Relay for Life event rotated between South Hill and Clarksville. In 2010, Clarksville created its own Relay for Life program.

Jolly raised money for Jamieson’s Relay for Life team from 1994 until the program moved to South Hill exclusively in 2016. Again, it is unknown how much Jolly raised between 1994 and 2011.

One cannot help but wonder, given the amount that Jolly has raised in the past four years — while in a wheelchair, in a nursing home — how much money she may have raised over 46 years living a normal life.

Domenick Eascasuccio, director of communications, southeast region American Cancer Society, identified Jolly as the top individual Relay for Life fundraiser from 2012-2015. Jolly raised more than $27,000 from 2012 to 2016,

In 2004, Jolly was appointed honorary chairman of the Relay for Life race. In addition, the Clarksville Lake County Chamber of Commerce honored Jolly with the Kathleen Walker Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the community.

Relay for Life team member Betty Miller said, “If anyone else on the team called a potential donor, the person usually said, ‘I’ll wait for Mildred to call.’”

Clarksville established its own Relay for Life program in 2010 thanks to the energy and commitment of Jolly and then-editor of the South Hill Enterprise, Frank Nanney Jr.

The American Cancer Society awarded Jolly a Top Fund raiser plaque in 2014

Two years ago, daughter Rachel wanted to do something special for her mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day, which are two days apart. She located as many old Relay for Life t-shirts possible and hired someone to create a t-shirt quilt. It hangs in Jolly’s room for all to admire.

The Mecklenburg County Cancer Association, founded by Wendell Watterson in 2006, a since-deceased cancer survivor, collects money for the benefit of Mecklenburg County cancer patients. In 2016, Jolly called to offer her assistance, and in 2017 she raised approximately $7500 as their largest individual fundraiser.

“No one says no to Mildred …. People expect her to call and they give because it is her,” said Jessica Ruff, MMCA Secretary.

West explained, “Not only does she raise money for MMCA, but she helps people use it. There was a Meadowview resident who had a stroke, and his wife had cancer — [my mother] helped him fill out the paperwork to get money from the fund.”

Another time, she added, Jolly got to talking with a relative visiting a resident and ended up helping them fill out paperwork to receive money from the fund.

For their fall fundraiser, Mecklenburg County Cancer Association sold raffle tickets, ten to a book. Jolly’s friend, Janelle Lankford, asked Jolly if she could sell one and Jolly replied, “Oh, I really don’t think I can do that.” Jolly sold five books.

Jolly is famous for her “list,” which she holds close. She guesses there are about 125 names on it, including friends, family, past students, church members and acquaintances. Jolly uses “the list” for every fundraising activity she participates in.

In addition to raising money by phone for Relay for Life, she also sells the signature purple bows to businesses in Clarksville, and luminarias to everyone.

When Jolly arrived at MeadowView in 2013, she took it upon herself to raise funds for the facility’s Alzheimer Association Memory Walk. Using “the list” she collected $12,525 from 2015-2017. She is the only individual resident who raises funds for this event.

Jolly grew up in Skipwith and graduated with a degree in religion and English at Randolph Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg. She taught for several years before marrying John Jolly in 1946.

Jolly and John built their own home in Skipwith in 1952, and she taught at Clarksville High School when it was located at the Fine Arts Center. She took a break when her two children Rachel and Robert came along.

She served as a substitute teacher at Bluestone High School from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. Her husband passed away in 2003 and her son Robert in 2006.

In 2013, Jolly moved to MeadowView Terrace, where she enjoys reading, playing board games, and fund raising.

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Hi Mrs. JOLLY,
I have thought of you often. So enjoyed my time in your lovely home. I helped with decorating and I worked at Century 21 with Lise. Miss you. Brenda

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