Get to know the town: Alicia Hollis

As the director of communication for Kent- Sussex Industries, Alicia Hollis takes pride in celebrating the work of others and sharing their stories with news outlets. She usually contacts others to share the good news, except when WBOC showed up inside the building.

“It was so surprising,” she said. “I was confused at first. Here I am, in charge of communications and WBOC was in my building. And I had no idea about it.”

Ms. Hollis had been surprised with a Jefferson Award to honor her for decades of community service. Here’s just part of her story:

DSC_0168Name: Alicia Hollis

Hometown: “Born and raised Milfordian”

Occupation: Director of communications, KSI

What is your educational background?

“I got a degree thinking I wanted to teach English, but I decided I didn’t want to be in the classroom. I’m a touchy person and this was when teachers had to stop touching the students. I like to give a good pat on the back when someone did something great if they want that pat.”

Are you active in any other groups?

“I used to be in the Lion’s Club. They’re wonderful. I like the person- centered service that so many of our organizations provide. It’s not just cause that’s our mission. It’s because Susie needs glasses, they’re doing all they can to make ends meet and those glasses would greatly impact her life.”

Tell us about your community service outside of work?

“I am active with the chamber of commerce in Milford; I’m the secretary. As a business person, being involved in the chamber can only help your business.

“I can’t stand the thought that we have people who are hungry or homeless. I think it’s really just sinful. I don’t know how we fix that, but I support the Code Purple shelter. I’m the person who would bring in a veggie tray; that’s my way of helping.”

What are your hobbies?

“I kind of like quiet time. I like working out in the garden and going to the beach. Now for me, I can’t walk on the beach like I used to because of the temperatures. So I like to go in the morning and at night. I like sea glass and shells and just being outside. Really, I’m just plain old lazy.”

You are a cancer survivor. Tell us about your journey?

“I remember the day I was diagnosed better than the day I was told I was cancer-free. I was diagnosed on March 25, 2011 and given the mammogram that showed I was cancer-free in July of 2012.

“Thank God for caregivers and friends. Now that it’s over, it doesn’t really feel like I went through a thing. It sucks like hell. But it’s a journey. I couldn’t stand that it meant I couldn’t go some places. Every single person’s walk is different through that cancer journey.”

Did your diagnosis affect work?

“Missing time at work really bothered me, but my coworkers were supportive and complimentary of the change. They were encouraging. They said, ‘Don’t worry about missing time from work. Your health is more important.’ “I think afterwards, they shared in the cancer-free because someone they knew beat the disease. I didn’t think of it like that. To me, it was an inconvenience.”

What was difficult about your journey?

“I didn’t like the bald thing much at first. When I started to lose my hair, it was a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I didn’t want to hug anyone, because I was losing it. I kept tugging at it, too. So I had my regular hairdresser at the time buzz it off. Then it’s just plain ole no hair.

“I wasn’t very comfortable with people seeing me like that. So I had a wig; a cranial prosthesis is what it’s called. After work, I would get in my car and back up. I would drive up to the hill and yank that head off. But it was really hot. And after a few days, I thought, ‘You know what? I work with people every day who don’t care what they look like, bald or not.’ So I just started coming in as I was.”

What happened when it grew back in?

“It grew back in darker. Now it’s easy when someone I know is diagnosed with cancer. I can just go in and ask for a number four guard and buzz that hair right off. That’s my way of trying to help and saying you’re not alone.”

Tell us about your job at KSI?

“I get to tell the story of what we do here. We serve those people there outside of my office. I get to talk about the quality of our services because they have a job. These people are amazing. I mean, for someone to have perfect attendance when they are legally blind and deaf? I know I don’t have perfect attendance.”

What’s your favorite part of the job?

“My favorite part is giving tours. When someone from the community comes in, they usually have an idea of what we do. But by me taking them on a tour, it allows people to see all of the parts and pieces that come together to make this agency great. I get to show off the abilities of the people we serve. People get to see that there is a lot of effort that goes into providing a quality day for the people we serve. It’s like you have to feel the rain on your face. Somebody else can’t feel that for you.”

What do you love about Milford?

“I love seeing people and generations of people — that community connection. I love helping the new people see the value in a small town.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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