Susan Shanks loves to work with people, but she also loves working with her hands. It’s what she does to relax, and it also has led to her volunteering to work at the Delaware State Fair.
Shanks, who hails from Felton, is a retired school nurse, having worked in the Milford School District for 22 years, and as a public health nurse for eight years before that.
But when she’s not working, she also loves to cross stitch and crochet.
“I like to make things for other people, and it’s relaxing,” she said, working on a project while monitoring the needlework display inside the Dover Building.
Shanks estimates she completes two to three projects a year, turning out work mostly for her grandchildren.
She picked up the art while in college.
“It’s a great de-stressor, particularly for college students,” she said, “and people like getting hand-made things.”
Long before she became known for her talents with a needle and yarn, Shanks knew she was destined to be of service to those around her.
“I’m not sure why, but I know from the time I was 8 years old, I wanted to help people,” she said. After completing college and becoming a pediatric nurse, she decided to go into public health, working for the state of Delaware. When the first of her two children entered school, Shanks turned her experience in the public sector back toward young children.
“Being in community health is good preparation for being a school nurse,” she said. “I think you get a good understanding of the needs of the community, and you form relationships with the people in the community who also happen to be the parents of your students.”
Shanks’ efforts were rewarded in 1999, when she was named Delaware School Nurse of the Year, a particular honor, she said, since the winner is chosen by prior honorees.
She still has students she treated as kindergarteners coming up to her and saying she was their favorite school nurse, Shanks said.
Her work at the State Fair sees Shanks as assistant superintendent of the needlework department, assisting the judges and explaining the various displays to admirers.
“We’re all volunteers here, so it’s a labor of love,” Shanks said. “We enjoy doing it. There are a lot of beautiful things here, so it’s easy to do.”
The State Fair also is a very familiar place, since both parents were 4-H members and often attended as exhibitors.
“I’ve been a part of the fair since I was a child,” she said. “Being at the fair, being part of the fair was something I was really born into.”