Bertha Armstrong retires after 52 years of service

By Page H. Gifford

Residents of Fluvanna County came out Jan. 15 and joined Bertha Armstrong in celebrating her 52 years of service to the community. There are not many in Fluvanna who did not know Armstrong. Those who do know her, know her patient, positive outlook and her headstrong inquisitive nature. 

A Fluvanna native, she married in 1962 and had two children. In 1968, when Fluvanna was more rural than now, Armstrong began her 52-year career in community and social work, meeting the needs of those needing a helping hand. Her work is extensive and in 1970 she became part of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, known as MACAA. She became the face of MACAA and in 1978 it became known as MACAA Fluvanna Outreach.

“In the early days we had no offices, we worked out of our cars,” she said.

Throughout her years serving the community, she has been an outreach supervisor, community resource coordinator, director of community programming, and supervisor and then director of rural outreach. In 2004 she was elected to the Fluvanna County School Board where she served for 16 years.

At 79, Armstrong exudes a quiet humility about her work. But for her, it will always be about the people she helped. The MACAA Thrift Shop was her brainchild and had been a staple in the county for 30 years. It was a place for those in need after a disaster, such as a fire, where they could get clothes, furniture, and kitchen items. Upon entering the MACAA Thrift Shop, she’d greet you with a friendly, warm smile and a “Hey! How are you doing?”

During the latter part of her career, MACAA teamed up with the Christian Service Society to create a food bank and holiday food drives to make the holidays a little brighter for struggling families.

While serving on the school board she felt they had met some goals but there was still work to be done. Serving, along with Camilla Washington, they both represented the Black community, adding diversity yet addressing the needs of all students and teachers. She said she is inquisitive, and she always questioned proposals or ideas, respectfully challenging the speaker by giving a different viewpoint.

“I think my accomplishments on the school board would include supporting the building of the new high school, more diversity with staff and teachers, and working on good leadership.”

In general, she felt to make Fluvanna more cohesive and work smoothly, that it is imperative residents from all walks of life get more involved in the operational process of the county.

“We need to participate, ask questions, be inquisitive.” She said that her patience was key to getting things done.

What would be on her wish list? Her answers were not what one might suspect.

“My wish list would include that I wish I had known 52 years ago what I know now.” She said that bringing people together, Black, White, young, and old is among one of her strongest wishes. “I would like to see us come together to talk, to share our feelings, and information. Maybe if we had, some of those tragedies we see in the media would have been avoided if we had just talked.” 

Now that she is retired, Armstrong is going to spend time with her husband of 60 years and her two grandchildren, but she is not giving up her passion for community work and continues to serve on the boards of Meals on Wheels, Christian Service Society, and the NAACP.

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