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Life in the Spotlight

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Rhonda Nelson


Lifelong Portage resident Rhonda Nelson believes in her community and has dedicated her time into making it a great place to live. As a retiree, she has spent the past eight years serving on the Portage Township School Board.

“I feel our children are the future citizens of our community,” Nelson said. “I believe they will have a lot to offer.”

“I’ve accomplished a lot because I believe in hard work, dedication and fairness,” Nelson said, leading to one of the lessons that Nelson seeks to pass on to Portage students, “If I could go back, though, I would take my education seriously and work harder to get better grades.”

“I’ve made mistakes in my career, but I’ve always learned from them,” Nelson said, noting that Former City Councilmen, Ed Gottchling, was instrumental in her involvement in politics. “He was a strong leader and a tough, but fair man. I have a lot of tenacity, and he saw how that could effect positive change in Portage.”

Nelson’s strong sense of service and dedication for her community have become a long list of accomplishments. She served on the Portage Fire Merit Board for 18 years, the former Chairman of the Board of Directors at Midwest Family Credit Union, a former board member of Gabriel’s Horn Homeless Shelter, and also serves on the Portage Redevelopment Commission.

“Successful communities are built on involvement, and Portage has a strong sense of pride in our community,” Nelson said. “We have a sense of togetherness. If anyone is in need of anything, the community rallies around them to help in any way that’s needed.”

Nelson’s family has experienced this strength first-hand. Nelson’s daughter, Wendy Smith, taught at Yost Elementary School for almost 20 years, but had to leave after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

“Wendy is a huge inspiration to all her family and friends. She has incredible determination and thinks of everyone but herself,” Nelson said. “After a ton of treatment and several surgeries, she’s continued to be upbeat and live a normal life.”

Of the people that pulled together to help Wendy’s family in this trying time, Nelson said “They’re generosity was very heartwarming and we’re so thankful.”

“I truly believe one person can make a huge difference,” Nelson said referring to her message of community involvement, “Imagine what a thriving community we could be if more people participated.”

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