Ten Who Made a Difference: Deb Proctor

What drives Deb Proctor, 69, to be involved in so many causes in Gillette and northeast Wyoming is her love of community. That, and a knowledge that you can’t take a stand and use your voice to affect change without becoming involved.

It’s her passion that defines Proctor’s efforts to promote and support the YES House over the past 29 years as secretary of its board. She also sits on the boards at the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center, the Senior Center and now the library foundation. She also has served on the board for the community gardens, is active each year with a garden of her own there, and helps tend a planter year-round in Highlands Park across the street from her house.

The roots of her involvement run deep, back to the community that supported her parents, who taught her to give back.

Rolling into “the big 7-0,” as she puts it, the former longtime Gillette school librarian/media specialist credits the community she grew up in, “super Sundance,” for the values she still holds true to.

“It’s because I grew up with caring parents, caring and loving parents and a very supportive community,” she said about her drive for community service.

“I tell a story about when I was going to UW (University of Wyoming) and called home collect and the operator dials the wrong number,= and she asks, ‘Will you take a collect call from Deb Proctor?’ And the man, an older man, says, ‘Sure, no problem. What do you need Deb?’ I mean, where else does that happen?

“So, a very supportive, family, community. That’s when you learn about caring, when you see role models in your community.”

For Sheri England, executive director of Youth Emergency Services (better known as the YES House), Proctor is a role model.

“Her leadership, board dedication and volunteering are done humbly and without recognition,” England wrote in her nomination of Proctor as one of this past year’s 10 Who Made a Difference.

There is one place where Proctor isn’t humble and quiet, she added. That’s the Pronghorn Center, where she often is found cheering on Gillette College’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. She also is a loud, vocal supporter of the UW Cowboys.

“I feel, for myself, it’s so important to be engaged in your community, to have a passion about things that make a difference for local people,” she said. “That’s why I’m involved.”

Proctor said the YES House fills a huge need in the community, so she also tries to attend and promote nearly every event or fundraiser she can. Ditto for the Legacy and Senior Center, which she said are filled with “wonderful and wise people,” and her drive to promote reading and support for the library.

“I grew up with the idea that you give your time, energy, skills and resources to the community if you love it. I always have,” Proctor said. “Gillette’s been very good to me.”

Some might thinks she sits on boards because she enjoys long meetings.

Her husband, Jerry Bennett sometimes tells her that.

“If you want to have a voice, you’ve got to be tireless,” Proctor said. “I like the chance to just be able to say one little thing, yes I agree or no I don’t agree.”

She also said that involvement is the greatest defense against becoming a complainer, someone who likes to gripe about things but doesn’t do anything about those situations.

“I get really tired of people who complain about our city and county government because I think they do a really fine job to create a place that we all want to live in,” she said. “Our services and options in Gillette, Wyoming, are wonderful for this size of town that we are.”

That leads to lesson No. 2, one that Proctor likes to relate to people.

“Sometimes we grouch about the government, and this is my lesson. The city’s going to build an overpass (on the Burma Road extension),” she said. “I thought it was the silliest thing in the world not to have exits to the interstate off that. Guess what? I use that overpass two or three times a day. So, I have apologized and it was a very wise decision.”

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