In the over 50 years that Betty Wilken has been at Derby, she has volunteered for almost every organization at one time or another.
Shortly after she and her husband Fred moved to Derby, Wilken, the mother of 2 and pregnant with her daughter, decided she “needed something to do” and offered his help to the Girl Scouts.
“When I was 21, I joined a troupe of fifth and sixth graders, and that was my first voluntary job at Derby,” Wilken said.
In the years that followed, Wilken worked as a mortgage loan officer for the former Verus Bank and was an active community volunteer with organizations such as Jaycee-ettes and Soroptimist.
A founding member of the Derby PRIDE committee, Wilken was chairman of Derby Days for 15 years.
She joined the Derby Chamber of Commerce in 1976, serving as chair and member of each committee.
“When I retired [from Verus] in 2007 [Chamber President] Mark Staats made me an honorary member,” she said.
Wilken was elected to a four-year term on Derby City Council in 2004 and received the Mayor’s Award of Excellence in 2014 in recognition of her community service.
A 52-year member of Beta Sigma Phi sorority, Wilken also has a long history with the Derby Rotary Club.
“I’ve held every Rotary Club position except treasurer, and I just left my 22-year job as program chair,” she said.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for the diligent volunteer.
Wilken serves the Derby Historical Museum as volunteer coordinator and “as [museum board member] Susan Swaney’s left hand at the Christmas Tree Gala fundraiser in early December.
About 10 years ago, Wilken was a founding board member of the Friends of Derby Public Library and served until she was appointed to the library board, where she is doing her second four-year term.
As well as being the treasurer of the library council, Wilken is the representative of the Derby Arts Council, which is responsible for the exhibitions in the library lobby and two galleries.
“Derby Public Library has such a reputation for the quality of our shows that we have a waiting list of performers,” she said.
Wilken is also in his second rotation on the board of the Derby Community Foundation.
“I was there for six years, been away for about five years, and now I’m back for a few more terms,” she said. “I’m currently secretary and on the grants committee, which is fun.”
Before the COVID outbreak, Wilken volunteered as a receptionist at Derby Senior Center and now runs “Bunco Babes” once a month.
“Everyone is welcome to play. You don’t need to have any skills, all you have to do is roll three dice and if you can count to six you’ve made it,” said she laughed.
“I worked for 40 years before retiring, so [volunteering] keeps me busy, out of trouble and out of Fred’s hair.