Video: Milly Bloomquist receives Presidential Citizens Medal

Gwen Chamberlain
Milly and the president share a special moment during the presentation.

Two days after receiving one of the nation's highest civilian honors, Milly Bloomquist is back home, reflecting on the experience of a lifetime, but also reflecting on the community that she says can claim the honor of the Presidential Citizen Medal that was handed to her by President Barack Obama on Oct. 20.

Bloomquist, the founder of Food for the Needy and Christmas for the Needy, which led to the creation of Milly's Pantry and the Weekend Backpack Program, says, "The whole community got this, as far as I'm concerned."

Bloomquist travelled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, the day before the awards ceremony and returned to her Keuka Park home on Friday around 7 p.m.

"And I went right to bed," she says.

She and the other honorees had time together before the awards ceremony, and president spent about 20 minutes with them during a brief meeting. That's when she told him, "I'm not done yet," the comment he quoted during his speech before he presented the medals to the group.

"That's the way I feel. There are still other things that need to be done," she says, explaining that no matter what need comes up, someone in the community answers the call. "It's amazing how everyone works together," she says.

"I think it's wonderful that the president of the United States can take time out to talk to the ordinary citizens," she said, describing the other honorees as, "just plain, ordinary citizens."

That group of plain ordinary citizens were introduced to the waiting crowd in the East Room, and made their entrance from the State Room.

As they waited on the stage, the president was introduced, and he briskly strode toward the stage, where he spoke for a few moments, drawing connections between Martin Luther King, the story of the Good Samaritan, and the work that the award winners have done. "They come from different backgrounds and they’ve devoted their lives to different causes, but they are united by the choice that they’ve made.  They could have made excuses for doing nothing.  Instead, they chose to help," he said.

Later he said, "Then there’s Milly Bloomquist, from Penn Yan, New York.  And for decades, she has personified the phrase, “above and beyond.” At her 90th birthday party, one speaker said that Penn Yan has its own special system for handling emergencies.  “If you’re out of food, call Milly.  If your heat has gone out, call Milly.  If you can’t pay your electricity bill, call Milly.  If you need a winter coat, call Milly.”

Family members who accompanied Bloomquist to the White House were her daughter Becky and her husband Chris Holder, their daughter, Molly Holder, and Milly's son, John and his wife, Julie Bloomquist.

They all enjoyed a tour of the White House followed by a reception before the awards ceremony. John, who graduated from Penn Yan Academy in 1972 and now lives in West Virginia, took several photos during the tour and posted them on his facebook page.

This was her first trip to the White House, and she says its an experience she wishes everyone should have.

A reception in Bloomquist's honor will be held at 1:30 pm.  Thursday, Oct. 27 at Milly's Pantry/The Pinwheel Cafe on Main Street in Penn Yan.

The president assists Milly as she steps forward to accept her award.