The children of Creative Opportunity Preschool in Chestertown, an enterprise operated by Joanne Ellsworth, sing a patriotic song during the 2011 Memorial Day ceremonies. Ellsworth has been praised by others in the community for sparking the love of learning and building character in youngsters.
A woman who has dual high-profile roles in northern Warren County was lauded this week by leaders of the local communities she serves.
Joanne Ellsworth, proprietor of Creative Opportunity preschool, and commander of American Legion Post 964 in Chestertown, has been named V.I.P. of the Year by the North Warren Chamber of Commerce. She will be honored Friday May 17 at the Chamber’s annual awards banquet.
Ellsworth has not only instilled values of citizenship in the local youth, but as Legion commander for the last eight years, she’s inspired patriotism in adults and boosted community spirit in the region, local officials said this week.
Town of Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe said May 7 that Ellsworth has played a key role in accomplishing many of the Legion’s recent projects.
“Joanne has been a real spark plug in the American Legion,” he said, noting she had been involved in establishing the new Chestertown Veterans Memorial Plaza, and had helped coordinate various upgrades to the neighboring Legion Post — both sources of community pride.
American Legion 2nd Vice Commander Joe Slattery praised Ellsworth for her role in presiding over local holiday ceremonies including the joint Chestertown-Brant Lake Memorial Day services — as well as her work on the Legion’s various projects and activities.
“Joanne’s a very good organizer and an eloquent speaker,” Slattery said.
Monroe noted that Ellsworth had nurtured two generations of preschoolers, sparking a love of learning as well as building their character.
He and others have observed that many of her pre-school graduates from many years ago have grown up and are now making valuable contributions to the community as well as society as a whole.
Ellsworth, however, deferred credit to others.
“I appreciate the honor, but this award is really about the community, not about a V.I.P.,” she said. “I do enjoy getting kids interested in the world around them — and I really appreciate the community’s support.”
Raised in Warrensburg, Ellsworth originally enlisted in the military after high school because she wanted to further her education, but she and her family couldn’t afford to pay for college, she said this week.
She served in the U.S. Army on active duty for 7 years, specializing in Communications, followed by 20 years in the reserves.
During her early years, Ellsworth transmitted messages and data — both digital and analog — in the pre-Internet days, stationed in such locations as Japan, Germany, and sites she isn’t willing to disclose. Her work started in the Viet Nam era and continued during the Gulf War.
When her active duty concluded, Ellsworth settled in Chestertown with her husband Ron, and they raised three children. She is officially retiring this week from the Army reserves.
In 1989, she opened the pre-school, and for many years, her students have sung at patriotic services and performed in community shows, to the delight of many.
“I believe our country needs the spirit of patriotism to stay strong,” she said.
In 2004 or so, Ellsworth took on the additional role of commander of the local Legion post.
Since then, she’s helped coordinate various efforts to upgrade the Legion headquarters, including projects undertaken by two local Eagle Scouts — Kyle McKenzie’s work rehabilitating on the post’s interior, and Jacob Hill’s accomplishments in landscaping the premises, constructing a new Legion Post sign and creating a parking lot.
Ellsworth again deferred credit.
“It was the boys and the community support that made it happen — individuals and businesses of the area have been so responsive to our needs.”