Sherry Roberts made a snap decision in the days after a tornado ripped through downstate Washington, leveling entire neighborhoods for miles in the Tazewell County town.
Roberts sat inside Zion Lutheran Church in Marengo when the call was made for volunteers to travel to the disaster area and help residents there clean up and recover their personal belongings. A group of church members were leaving for Washington within the hour.
Roberts, a lifelong Marengo resident, had errands to do after church, but she sat and thought whether a person living in Washington would take that as an excuse.
“Sitting there in church – the minute they announced it – it was just a tug on my heart,” Roberts said. “I’m not sad that I made that decision for a minute. It’s probably one of the more rewarding things I’ve done.”
Roberts ran home, told her husband, Bill, that she was leaving for Washington and that she didn’t know when she would return. She ultimately stayed for the day, working with her church members to clear neighborhoods of debris – block by block.
Roberts has accomplished many rewarding feats in her lifetime, said Geraldine Kanaly, her sister who nominated Roberts as an Everyday Hero.
A lifelong member of Zion Lutheran, Roberts always has been active with the church. She taught Sunday school for 13 years and still helps oversee Club 419, a civil servant group for Zion middle school students.
Roberts, along with other members, visit the Bethesda Home at least twice a month to interact and do Bible studies with the developmentally and physically disabled adults who populate the home.
Roberts is known to follow up with a card or deliver a homemade dessert to people she encounters through volunteering, church and her job at Brandt’s Pharmacy in Marengo.
“She is always putting everybody else’s needs before her own,” Kanaly said. “She’s very giving and generous with her time. She doesn’t seek out the spotlight at all.”
Roberts wanted to avoid the spotlight so much that she fretted for days about having her name sprawled in the Northwest Herald as an Everyday Hero, Roberts said.
“I like to be the doer rather than the talker,” she said. “I would much rather scrub a floor than sit in a meeting.”
Growing up in Marengo, Roberts took her cues from her grandma and parents, all of whom, she said, were willing to give their time to people.
She went to Zion Lutheran School before graduating from Marengo High School. She started working at the family-owned Brandt’s Pharmacy as a teenager and has stayed there for the past 42 years.
After she had her daughter, Roberts started actively volunteering at the Zion school and church. Through those interactions, she builds on relationships and learns about needs within the community.
Her longevity at Brandt’s has allowed her to see generations of customers grow from teenagers to married adults. She prides herself on being a good neighbor, someone who takes the time to listen and understand people, she said.
“It’s the little stuff that makes the biggest difference – sending a card, saying hi, smiling at somebody,” Roberts said. “It’s a personal reward to see how it touches somebody else.”