Polly Troxell will gladly bug anyone for a good cause, but can’t stand getting awards even from a television station.
The WLKY Spirit of Louisville awarded Troxell and 10 other individuals who work as volunteers and give their time selflessly in the spirit of community service with the Bell Award.
WLKY presented the awards at a ceremony in the Galt House last Thursday and Troxell humbly admits she wishes they could’ve just mailed it to her.
“I was so surprised and nervous,” Troxell said. “Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t do well at public speaking. I made myself write down what I was going to say. I knew if I didn’t when I got up there what comes into my mind just comes right out of my mouth and I didn’t want that to happen.”
Troxell works closely with senior citizens and anyone else she can help sign up for assistance with Medicare and Medicaid through the State Health Insurance Program. Troxell volunteers with Tri-County Community Action Agency, serves on Eminence City Council and sits on the Chamber of Commerce board. She also sits on the Aging Advisory Board at KIPDA for Henry County.
Troxell swears serving others has saved her life.
“I lost my husband two days after my first council meeting, two years ago I had breast cancer, and this year I lost my youngest child in February,” Troxell said. “It is really strange that every year I have ran for city council something has happened. But being active has gotten me out of the house when I might’ve just sat here for a month and not done anything. It truly has saved my life.”
Chamber of Commerce Director Pat Wallace called Troxell to tell her she had won the award.
“I knew my daughter must be pulling some strings in heaven. They called me on her birthday.” Troxell said. “She loved ceremonies and awards and I don’t. I just don’t interview well. I still to this day don’t know who submitted letters on my behalf, but Pat told me she would put everything together for me. It felt inspiring to go to the ceremony and hear about the things the other people had done. They did so much more than I had.”
Troxell downplays the volunteer work she continues to do. She was a self-proclaimed advocate for the SHIP program seven years before the program had been created.
“I was watching this little minuscule House bill that finally passed,” Troxell said. “In 1985, a disabled person wasn’t allowed a supplement program for their insurance like they do now with Medicare. I called Humana first and told them they had to cover disabled people now and a man told me I had to be mistaken. They had lobbyists in Frankfort and they would know if the bill had passed. I told him he could come to my house and read it if he wanted to.”
Troxell began calling every disabled person she knew.
“When you are disabled you don’t have a job anymore and you live off a check,” Troxell said. “It was important to me because I knew people that were sitting out there paying out enormous amounts of money for their healthcare with a little check. I didn’t know it at the time, but I guess I had become an advocate.”
Troxell would later hear about the SHIP program while playing Bunco with friends and that it would be a new program offered at Senior Center as of 1998. Troxell wasn’t interested. She felt like she didn’t have the time, but her daughter encouraged her to get out of the house and do it one day a week. It has turned into a full-time job that she loves.
“I love seeing the end result. If I can save someone money when they are spending so much on medical bills and I help them get to where they are paying $10 instead of $120 it’s gratification,” Troxell said. “They have more money for groceries and the things they need. I feel like I have accomplished something.”
Troxell’s love of service has roots in her childhood in WWII before public assistance existed.
“I think it goes back to my dad who was one of the four Ellis brothers that were drafted during the war,” Troxell said. “Everyone in New Castle knew us and our family. Dr. Norvell would make sure that I got my medicine. I had tuberculosis when I was 12. Everyone looked out for each other. Even the storekeepers knew us. Granny would trade rations for sugar at the time. We knew when someone lost a family member in the war. The people of New Castle looked after us and I’ll never forget that.”
Troxell would later work with Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent to secure the new Recreational and Services Park and Senior Center at the suggestion of grant writer Robert Moore. Troxell helped raise the funds, did any footwork if needed for paperwork. Two years, seven months and 20 days later Troxell was amazed at what they had accomplished.
“You can’t just put an idea in my head and let it sit there,” Troxell said. “I will be pushy about something if I think it is a good idea. I will just talk and talk and not stop till I see something happen.”
Troxell serves an annual Kentucky Derby Eve Breakfast to raise proceeds that support senior activities. She also helped organize and repackage food for the food truck that comes once a week to Henry County. Troxell saw the need, looked at how the food was distributed and did her best to make it better.
“People would come through there with a box in their hand and go down the line for us to fill it,” Troxell said. “I thought it was so demeaning. I asked about the guidelines and found out we could change that.”
Troxell gave everyone a number when they came in the morning for the truck. They would come back at 11 a.m. when she and other volunteers had unloaded the truck and put the food in individual boxes for them.
“They give us their number and they get a completed box,” Troxell said. “We are always looking for boxes we can use and it is a great program from Dare to Care for people that are less fortunate. We do about 140 boxes by 1:00.”
Troxell also helps with hot meals they deliver seniors on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. She considers it important for people who may not otherwise receive a hot meal or see someone at all the entire day.
“I had no skills when I started doing a lot of this,” Troxell said. “I didn’t know how to use the computer, but I have worked my way through it. If you have just a couple of hours to give it can make all the difference. As a widow, I didn’t want to sit in this house and dwell on the memories — it’s not mentally good for you. If I can help someone I certainly will and if I can’t I am very honest with them. We have another Bell Award winner, Mr. William Mason who is 95 and delivers 21 meals a day. He is very humble. You can do anything you want to do as long as you don’t tell yourself you can’t.”
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