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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Hilda Enoch keeps careful watch on city

Active citizen advocates ‘continuum of care’

April 6, 2001

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Hilda Enoch has had her finger in more than a few pies during her nearly 40 years in Lawrence.

At various times, she's been an advocate for the living wage, public transportation, day care for working families, elder care, recycling, the homeless and many more issues. Plus she's been an inveterate writer of letters to the editor.

And she's not done yet.

"I think I was raised that you're part of a community, and you give to it," said Enoch, 66. "I had a good father and he had a hard time sleeping if there was injustice.

"Since there's injustice everywhere, he passed it on to me."

As a result of her efforts, the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County awarded her the Helen Fluker Distinguished Citizen Award in February.

The award recognizes a Douglas County resident whose efforts have helped improve government.

"Hilda demonstrates a willingness to help educate her fellow citizens, always with the goal of encouraging participation in the democratic process," said Eileen Larson, chair of the League's selection committee.

Enoch accepted the award with modesty.

"It's never an individual thing," she said.

"I've never been on anything that's worked where I've been just one person. If I have any talent at all, it's getting people involved.

"It was always a group adventure."

A long-time mission

Enoch arrived in Lawrence with her husband, Jacob, 37 years ago. It didn't take her long to go to work.

"When we came to Lawrence, there was no day care for low-income families," she said.

Working with other volunteers, Enoch helped start Children's Hour, a program that eventually was incorporated into Lawrence's Head Start program.

"It became much more than any of us who were volunteering could've imagined," she said.

The family left Lawrence for a semester in the late 1960s to help set up a university in Venezuela. That experience planted the seed for the next project.

Enoch didn't know Spanish well, but neighbors were helpful and a Venezuelan girl lived with the family.

"We thought it was a great way to learn Spanish," Enoch said.

"But it turned out she was illiterate. So I had to teach her to read in Spanish."

Enoch chuckled.

"That was a real accomplishment," she said.

Banding together

Upon her return to Lawrence, Enoch banded together with other women who had been to Venezuela Mavis Wiseman, Georgiana Torres and Mimi Montgomery and created Small World. The program was designed to educate the wives and children of foreign nationals attending Kansas University.

The program continues today, offering language classes and cultural exchanges. Enoch said the women were inspired by the welcome they received in Venezuela.

"When we came back, we wanted to do the same thing make these women feel a part of it all," Enoch said. "I think there are women from 40 countries there."

Enoch is most proud of how the program has helped empower its participants.

One Libyan woman blossomed during her time there, Enoch said.

"When she graduated, she said, 'I've learned we're just a bunch of women and we can do this in our own country,'" Enoch said.

Activities abound

During the years, Enoch also was a member of Habitat for Humanity, Mother To Mother of Douglas County, the Lawrence Partnership for Children and Youth Neighborhoods Action Group, the Kaw Valley Chapter of the Older Women's League and others.

These days, she is active in both the Coalition for Homeless Concerns and the Kaw Valley Living Wage Alliance.

She says she would like to see Douglas County offer a "continuum of care" so that all residents, regardless of their race and socio-economic status, can get the help they need to be successful and live a dignified life.

After so many years, why does she keep at it?

"Well, we've had some successes. We've got public transportation. We've got pre-schools."

She paused. "My problem is, I can't not do this."

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