Omaha woman honored as unsung hero

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – For years Ella Willis has worked to beautify her neighborhood and her community, she tells us she was motivated by her early years living in Mississippi.

“I was coming up with 14 kids. We didn’t have grass cause we kept it all down. When I left home and got married, the beauty of having a nice yard and flowers and all that was my main thing to have flowers and beauty,” said Willis.

Ella brought in artists to paint flowers in her neighborhood and she helped plant a flower garden along North 24th Street. For many years, Ella has encouraged others to do a simple task, just clean up around your home and your neighborhood.

“If [there’s] a vacant lot next door, clean up the vacant lot. Sweeping the sidewalk in front of your house, maybe in front of the vacant lot cause that helps beautify your area and the next area.”

Ella is one of three Omaha women recognized as unsung heroes by representative Don Bacon. Bacon will read their names on the house floor and into the congressional record.

Publishers of the Omaha Star Terri Sanders was on the committee that selected the women. Sanders says she’s proud that three women were selected for the honor.

“The girlfriend club is strong. One of the things I think women are more recognized now is because we have a female vice president and so that kind of pushes the female envelope a little bit further to the top of the pile. Since it’s up there, we need to open it and let those people out,” said Sanders.

Ella says sometimes it’s tough to get people in her community to take pride in their neighborhood and she always delivered a strong message to those who don’t listen.

“We live out here and we need to take care of our area, we shouldn’t have to go around asking other people to come in and to take care of the area. We should be able to maintain our own area,” said Willis.

The two other women honored by Bacon as unsung heroes are Teela Mickles and Betty Mcdonald.

Teela Mickles is the founder of Compassion in Action, a non-profit that helps families affected by incarceration and Betty McDonald is the co-founder of Native Omaha Days.

Copyright 2021 WOWT. All rights reserved.

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