Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Sometimes she's filling in at French Way Cleaners, the century-old business formerly owned by her father and now by her husband. Sometimes she's appearing in costume at the Des Moines Playhouse. But much of the time, Soozie McBroom is involved in the ongoing renovation of her beloved Ingersoll Avenue.

"I absolutely love this community," said McBroom, 62, "and I love my neighborhood. That's my current passion."

She and her husband, Mike, live a half block from Ingersoll on Waterbury Road. "About 10 years ago, I knocked on doors and asked how I could be involved" with the businesses along Ingersoll, she said. "We needed to dress it up."

She became president of the Ingersoll Area Association Board in 2000 and served as co-chair of the Ingersoll Beautification and Restoration Committee from 2002 to 2006.

Eventually she became a co-chair of Restoration Ingersoll, which kicked off with a pilot project covering the segment between 28th and 31st streets. That phase brought new sidewalks, planters and benches and was completed this summer; now it's on to the next stretch of the street.

"I've learned so much from doing this," she said. "There are so many steps to a big project." McBroom praises the efforts of the many other people working on it, and said she expects to stick with the project through its planned completion in 2015.

"I'm pretty persistent," she said. "Pretty determined."

Volunteerism is not a new for McBroom. Her list of volunteer experiences starts with a political campaign for George Milligan in 1973 and goes on to include work with the Junior League of Des Moines, Variety Club - The Children's Charity, the Science Center of Iowa and many other events and organizations.

She received the Variety of Iowa Sunshine Award in 1997 and two honors from the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute: the Civic Award in 2006 and the Neighborhood Award in 2008.

In 2008, she served on the boards of Variety and ChildServe, worked on committees for Hollywood Halloween and Des Moines Symphony Pops events, and raised funds for the Salvation Army in addition to her Ingersoll activities.

Her inclination to get involved goes back to childhood, she said. "My parents were very positive people," McBroom said. "I credit them with my attitude. And I've been inspired by a lot of friends; we work together and have a lot of fun."

After graduating from the University of Iowa, McBroom taught second grade for 13 years, then was a supervisor for home instruction for four years.

If you've ever wondered how Susan turned into "Soozie," here's the answer. "When I was a teacher, we were working on phonics one day and talking about the 'oo' sound," she said. "One of the students asked, 'Why couldn't your name be spelled that way?' That was 20 years ago, and it's been that way ever since."