Palma Aikins makes a difference in the lives of many people she will never meet. For the 58-year-old, volunteering isn’t something she does, it is part of who she is.
“I think everyone wants to do good,” Aikins said. “There are so many ways to be a positive force in the world; contributing to the well-being of some people in my neighborhood is what I do.”
The Naperville resident has an extensive resume of service to the community, including founding 100 Women Who Care and a St. Vincent de Paul Society at her church. In addition to taking part in Edward Hospital’s Animal Assisted Therapy program with her dog, Maggie, she is a longtime volunteer at Naperville Cares, a nonprofit that helps families in crisis by providing emergency financial support and resources.
Janet Derrick, Naperville Cares executive director, said with only one full-time and two part-time employees, the organization depends on volunteers like Aikins to carry out their mission.
“Palma is a lovely person with a warm and giving heart,” Derrick said. “Naperville Cares is very blessed and thankful to have volunteers like Palma because they have a great deal of knowledge about community resources that can help clients seeking assistance.”
On April 25, Aikins was recognized at the Bridge Communities luncheon with the Transforming Lives Award for her activism on behalf of women in need.
“I am honored,” Aikins said. “What I do is not extraordinary really; significant, hopefully, but not extraordinary. I could produce a list of 116 women — current members of 100 Women Who Care — who would be good candidates for this award. That’s the great thing about Naperville.”
Residents of Naperville since 1987, Aikins and her husband, Jim, have three grown children and two Labrador retrievers.
1. What do you enjoy about volunteering?
“I enjoy volunteering because of the people I work with. When you give of yourself and the person next to you gives of herself, it brings you close.”
2. What have you gained from volunteering?
“I have gained some tremendous friendships. I gain satisfaction when I see how someone benefits from the work my friends and I do. I also gain a glimpse of the struggles that low-income people have in this town. There are so many sad stories. (It) makes me want to help.”
3. What do you like to do in your spare time?
“Jim and I enjoy hiking and camping together with friends and family. Of course, we rarely miss an opportunity to hang out with our kids: Brigit, Connor and Molly. I just planted 144 seeds in my kitchen looking forward to gardening soon. Also, singing with the choir at St. Elizabeth Seton Church is such a joy.”
4. What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
“When I was a kid, my name was Mary. There were so many other ‘Marys’ in college that people started calling me by my middle name and it stuck.”
5. What is an ideal night out for you in Naperville?
“My brother is in (the band) The Waterdawgs, and they play at Potter’s, Frankie’s, Quigley’s and Ribfest. I love to go there for a concert.”