CHAMPAIGN – For the better part of the 30 years she's lived in Champaign, Lucia Scully has volunteered at her children's school, a local hospital, delivering meals to senior citizens, running a low-cost food distribution program, and as an election judge.
But the native Peruvian seems to have found her real calling working as a volunteer translator for Spanish-speaking clients of the Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign.
"I just love that job," Scully said recently as she proudly gave a tour of the new facilities on Bloomington Road.
She's worked at the clinic that serves low- and no-income clients for at least eight years, she believes, learning through The News-Gazette of the need for a translator.
"I figured that's a job not every regular person can do," said Scully, who works there every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to when the prenatal clinic sees its last patient in the late afternoon. She estimated half of the weekly prenatal patients are Spanish-speaking.
Laura Tinsman, a nurse who serves as the prenatal women's health coordinator, calls Scully an "amazing" person with a warm personality who helps wherever needed.
"She's brought in goodies and clothes for the prenatal patients," she said.
Tinsman said Scully, 61, also tends to mother the women for whom she's translating, supplementing the medical professionals' advice with her own to be sure the women take good care of themselves.
"I appreciate that in Lucia. They look upon her as someone they can trust and listen to," Tinsman said.
Scully is one of several translators at the clinic, but most of the others are paid and serve there full time.
On a recent day, she translated for a nurse practitioner who was asking a mother of three about her children. Scully was working at the clinic's old location when the same mother came in for the first time.
"I've known her through all three kids," she said. "The doctors think I'm like a little mother because I tell (pregnant moms) what to do."
With her effervescent personality and quick smile, Scully is one of those rare people who can talk to anyone and get almost anyone to talk to her.
"I'm a very outspoken person. I will give my opinion even if you don't ask me," she laughed.
Scully was born in Piura, Peru, the second of four children. When she was 17, her mother was killed in a car accident that also severely injured her father. It took him about a year to get back on his feet and when he did, he moved his family to Lima from their west coast home to be closer to extended family.
"It was pretty hard. When something like that suddenly happens, it takes a while to realize it's the real thing. It's always horrible to lose a parent but we were pretty strong. We had good grandparents and a great family that kept us going," she said.
After finishing high school and business school in Lima, Scully landed a job with a large insurance firm. Realizing knowing English would help her advance, she received permission from her company to travel to the United States in 1969 to learn English at an international school in Washington, D.C.
Although she planned to return to Peru, in 1970 she married her conversational English teacher. Bob Scully was then a Georgetown University student moonlighting to earn money. Lucia Scully worked for a few months for the Organization of American States but after Bob graduated, they moved to Indianapolis where he attended medical school.
In 1971, their first child, Patricia, came along and three years later son Michael was born.
"It was a great thing to come to Indiana. In D.C., you have so many people that speak Spanish that you are not using your English. When I got to Indiana, I started thinking in English," she said.
Although she said she missed her own mother when her children were born, Scully said she and Bob received great support from his parents, who lived only 90 minutes away in Madison, Ind. When Bob Scully finished his medical education and training, he was recruited by Carle Clinic, and the Scullys moved here in 1977.
"We came two or three times here, and I think we made the right decision. This was the group that Bob wanted. It's going to be 30 years this June that Bob has been with Carle," she said.
Starting as doctor of adult medicine, Bob Scully is now the chief medical officer for Health Alliance Medical Plans, a managed-care organization covering more than 260,000 people.
Lucia Scully became a U.S. citizen in 1974.
"I immediately got very acquainted with the United States. I like the way they make decisions here. In Peru, it takes a long time to make decisions. I became very American," she said. "American people don't realize what they have. They complain quite a bit. There is nothing like the United States. I have traveled quite a bit and I came from an undeveloped country, even though I grew up as a person of privilege."
In Champaign, Scully said she made her children a priority and volunteered at St. Matthew's Catholic School, where they attended.
And when both children were in school, she also volunteered at Carle Foundation Hospital, taking people where they needed to go and later working in the gift and coffee shops. She spent about 12 years doing that.
She also has delivered Meals on Wheels for about 15 years every Tuesday with a partner and has become close friends with many of the recipients.
"I talked to my partner and said I wished I had taken notes all these years. There is not a boring day. There is always something interesting or dramatic," she said of that work.
Also for about 15 years, Scully has worked as an election judge, something she felt was more of a contribution to the whole community than her other volunteer activities.
Lucia and Bob Scully both ran the SHARE food program through St. Matthew's for about eight years up until about a year ago. That program enabled folks to buy staples such as meat, fruits and vegetables at a low cost once a month. Some people she met through Frances Nelson ended up taking advantage of that program as well.
"The reason why I believe in helping other people is because I grew up that way. In my house, that's what people did," she said. "My mother did it and at a younger age, we all started doing service to the community."