2017-01-06 / Front Page

Great Person voting is underway

It’s time to vote for the Post’s Great Person Award.

Each year, readers choose one person they think has made our communities a special place to live. There are no qualifications for the Great Person Award – it’s simply to honor those who make their community better.

The award is meant to be a thank you for all they do during the year. The winner will be interviewed for a story in the Kennebunk Post.

A ballot of everyone nominated is on page 5.

Voting will end at noon, Monday, Jan. 9 and the winner will be announced in the following weeks.

The Post will accept printed ballots (or photo copies) only through Jan. 9. Ballots should be mailed off to Kennebunk Post, P.O. Box 1894, Biddeford, ME 04005. Ballots may also be dropped off at 457 Alfred Road, Biddeford.

No emailed ballots will be accepted.

The nominees:

Cheryl Ernst nominates Michelle Parent: Michelle is our USPS mail carrier where I work as receptionist at Atria Senior Living in Kennebunk.

Since I have gotten to know Michelle while working at Atria just this year, I have heard of how she goes above and beyond the usual delivery of the many letters and packages each day. She is known to stop at the store on her own time just to bring milk or a little food to some homebound people along her stop. Whatever the request, she’ll try to fill it – such as simply opening a jar for an elderly person who doesn’t have the strength. We all know that postal workers look out for the people they serve each day, but Michelle’s kindness goes even further. At Atria, she makes sure the outgoing letters of the residents have postage, so their mail will not be delayed, or taking an extra couple minutes to help someone understand the change-of-address form. This is Michelle’s last year at the post office, I believe, and she has proven to be a superb worker. But what makes her a great person is that she does this difficult job, through all weather and multiple heavy trays of mail, with a great big smile and the most helpful of attitudes.

Emily Egan nominates Linda Ruskoski, a literacy and reading specialist at Kennebunk High School. She brings more than 40 years of teaching experience to the reading room, where she provides individualized instruction to students with specified learning disabilities. Linda’s expert attentiveness paired with affection helps students meet – and exceed – their goals. It is not uncommon for Linda’s students to make several years growth in one academic year. Furthermore Linda nurtures her students’ passions and celebrates their talents. She goes above and beyond by encouraging her students to start small businesses, find their first summer jobs, hone in on artistic craft, try out for athletic teams, apply to college and take other risks that students would otherwise be hesitant to do. Linda attends all of the students’ extracurricular events, often with posters, bells and fanfare, and always with a large smile beaming of pride.

Ben O’Brien nominates Sue Plass: It’s hard to imagine a person who loves giving back to her community more than Sue Plass. When I first met her, I was bringing my daughter to her first twirling practice two years ago. Miss Sue, as the girls lovingly call her, is coach and director of the Kennebunk Twirlers. With each passing season, the breadth of Miss Sue’s compassion for her twirl girls and the communities of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel continues to astound me. For the past 24 years, Miss Sue has dedicated her life to being a positive influence on hundreds of young people. She volunteers what amounts to a full-time job’s worth of hours each week helping children recognize their value, realize their potential, set and achieve their goals, cultivate lifelong friendships and grow into well-rounded citizens who understand the importance of a strong community. Miss Sue has helped nurture and develop dozens of state and regional baton champions, provide opportunities for thousands of hours of community service for her high school students, organized and participated in countless community celebrations and facilitated many thousands of dollars in scholarships for outgoing Kennebunk High School seniors. I could not ask for a better example of what it means to be a wonderful woman and amazing human being. I feel so blessed to have found such an amazing role model for my daughter. Sue Plass is what it means to be selfless. Sue personifies the community spirit. Sue is who we all hope our children grow up to be like. Thank you for your consideration in recognizing this true gem in our community.

Lily Downing nominates Mrs. Suscello, Kennebunk Elementary School. She is the best teacher ever

Quinn Downing nominates Mr. Chapman, Sea Road School. He is a great teacher.

Anthony Dater nominates Bella Rossborough. As a school project in 2014 on the devastating effects of single-use throwaway plastic bags on ocean life, Rossborough, a fifth-grader, organized her fellow students to advocate for a Kennebunk ban on these bags. Through surveys with local businesses, contact with selectmen and collaboration with the town’s energy efficiency committee, Bella, her mother Edie and teacher Jan Gibson developed an ordinance to ban the bags in retail stores. Then tirelessly with other students, Bella distributed promotional leaflets to stores and the public on the benefits of the bag ban ordinance. Her efforts culminated in the passage of the ordinance at the June 2016 town meeting, successfully in effect since October 2016. One person can, indeed, change the world.

Paula Norbert nominates Laura Smith: I would like to nominate Laura Smith for her many years of dedication to helping further a sense of community in the Kennebunks. For many years, I have seen Laura at so many community-wide activities, lending support, volunteer time and her enthusiasm to everything from the May Day events to the Christmas tree lighting and various parades. As a photographer for the York County Coast Star some years ago, she often highlighted events in our community and now, in her work in public relations for our Chamber of Commerce, she is always bringing attention to so many of our community-wide activities and local businesses from Kennebunk to Kennebunkport to Arundel. She is present at so many community activities with her friendly and welcoming spirit.

In addition, over the past year, Laura took an important leadership role in coordinating many in the Kennebunk community to offer support to the McEnaney family during a difficult year as our friend Maureen, their mother, was sick with cancer. She was instrumental in helping organize a huge gathering at the middle school which brought together hundreds of people, including children, youth, families, and teachers to hold a fundraiser and a joyful spaghetti dinner with games and silent auction to support this family. That night lifted the spirits of this family as well as lifting the spirits of all who attended the incredible evening of care and love. This brought out the best of so many people who shared their compassion and care for a local family.

When Maureen traveled to Boston for surgery, Laura, along with other moms, helped organize a complete renovation of their family kitchen to lift the spirits of Maureen upon her return. In a very short time, she and a small group of people, helped to bring together the resources of local businesses and volunteers to repaint and update the kitchen in their home. After Maureen lost her battle with cancer last June, Laura again helped to organize a Celebration of Life gathering in coordination with staff at KBIA. Again many folks came together near Mother’s Beach to celebrate Maureen’s life, share a delicious potluck meal and offer support and sympathy to the family and friends of Maureen.

I have personally witnessed Laura’s incredible organizational abilities, her upbeat spirit in the face of sorrow and the care and details she brought to all of this large-scale activities. We are fortunate to have someone like Laura Smith in our community as she helps invite each of us to care and support the members of the Kennebunk community in concrete ways. She is always so generous with her time and energy and she is certainly a great person whom I am privileged to call my friend.

Helen Thorgelsen nominates Bonnie Clement as Great Person of the Year. As the owner of H.B. Provisions in Lower Village, Bonnie impacts this community on a daily basis. Through her generosity, Bonnie began the H.B. Fuel Fund that helps members in the community who are struggling to pay to heat their home. This is done anonymously through the fuel companies and is meant for those who might not otherwise have assistance or are going through a rough patch. Bonnie believes that no one should be cold especially in this climate. In addition to the fuel fund, Bonnie also gives generously to others in the community from organizations raising money, to folks in need, or even hard working folks who appreciate an extra large tip.

As well as being generous to this community, Bonnie has also created an environment at H.B. Provisions where local children can come and feel safe to meet their friends. If the kids need a little nudge to good behavior Bonnie will do that, too. She always says, “It takes a village,” and we are in the heart of our village. I can’t tell you how many Band-Aids and a drink of water Bonnie has handed out for scraped knees and elbows.

Bonnie has also made a significant impact to Lower Village from her work on the Lower Village Committee and she is often one to speak up at public hearings regarding the quality of life in Lower Village. She has also been on the Bridge Committee and freely shares information regarding the bridge with her customers at H.B. Provisions, and is willing to share what she knows with anyone that asks.

At H.B. Provisions Bonnie is always finding ways to help each individual customer whether it is selling them an ingredient from the deli that isn’t on the grocery shelves or allowing people to customize their eat-in orders to their liking. She always goes the extra mile to make H.B. Provisions the best general store it can be.

Bonnie has deserved to be Great Person of the Year for many years because her commitment to this community began the day she moved here.

These are just a few of the things Bonnie Clement has done to make our community a better place and I am honored to be her partner and spouse.

Carol Edwards nominates Gabriella Rodriguez Quinn: I wish to nominate Gabriella Rodriquez Quinn for her outstanding work in the Kennebunks with her nonprofit organization Blix Horses. She has sought tirelessly to spread knowledge about horses to local residents and has worked especially with the elderly and children, taking the horses to many venues, such as Atria, to offer the therapy and love these animals can provide. She also offers instruction and therapy sessions for both children and adults.

Rob Bartlett nominates Sharon Staz: Since retiring from serving the community as general manager of Kennebunk Light and Power District in 2015, Sharon has devoted herself to many nonprofit and service organizations as well as chairing the energy committee for the town. I am most familiar with her work as treasurer of MaineStage Shakespeare (www.mainestageshakespeare.com). It is no exaggeration to say that she is a vital component of the small group that ensures that this program returns every summer to enrich the lives of the children of our community as well as providing the only live theater in the Kennebunks. Rather than spending her retirement relaxing, I see her working hard to make the lives of others better day in and day out. I think that this kind of selflessness forms the basis of being a Great Person – and Sharon is a great example for all.

Stephanie Kelley and the staff at Animal Welfare Society nominate Bob Kraus: He is a regular volunteer at the Animal Welfare Society. At 93 years young, he rarely misses a day and has already logged in 420 volunteer hours this year. Each and every day, Bob comes by to walk dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, energetic dogs, shy dogs, young puppies, senior pooches – Bob loves them all and walks each and every one with a big smile on his face.

For all of us at AWS, Bob is more than just a colleague. He is an inspiration. His strength and tenacity are traits that we notice, admire and strive to live up to. His joy for life, cheerfulness, and amazing energy make the world a brighter place for the AWS staff, volunteers and most importantly the dogs he spends time with each day. He is a true champion for our animals.

We are honored to nominate Bob for the Kennebunk Post’s Great Person Award.

Janice Hanson nominates Normand Labbe: Norm is very modest about the role he has played, but without his support, the initiative to get hydrofluosilicic acid removed from our drinking water at Kennebunk Kennebunkport Wells Water District would have failed.

Peter Hanson nominates Norm Labbe for his unselfish dedication to providing excellent water service.

Kim Liversidge nominates Norm Labbe. Stood up for the removal of fluoride from our water system.

Jude and Joel Brownstein nominate Lisa Mills. Not only is Lisa the consummate local entertainer, bringing joy and an overly generous spirit to everyone in the Kennebunks, Cape Porpoise, etc., but in the face of personal tragedy, Lisa has exhibited the true essence of what it means to be a courageous heroine. She has been a beacon of strength while proving that the embracing of one’s faith can indeed see us through even in the worst of personal events. Her smiles and hugs continue to be given to those in her path. Her beautiful voice goes on singing as a constant gift to us all.

In our minds, there is no one more deserving of this honor than Lisa Mills. More than ever before we need people around us who can assure us that love, kindness to others and the sharing of God-given gifts will ultimately see us through to a better place.

To embrace your faith and pay it forward to your family, friends and neighbors. Lisa Mills does it better than anyone we know. Please vote her for the Great Person of 2016.

Nik Charov nominates Paul Dest. Paul Dest will receive NOAA’s Nancy Foster Habitat Conservation Award at a conference in New Orleans. He is one of only two recipients of this national, biennial award given to individuals or groups making a lasting difference in environmental protection and coastal communities. Paul is a longtime resident of Kennebunk, devoted father of two and sits on numerous local and national boards. He’s also my friend and colleague. I think he’s a great person.

Brian Fox nominates Kristina Birthisel. Kristina is so, so helpful at the library. The town is lucky. She has a great smile. Please award her.

Chris Madden nominates Mary and Tom Couming. The Coumings have started CanDo for homeless and always donate time to homeless.

Jason and Dakota Stone nominate Angela O’Connor. If you have a child who participates in sports in the Kennebunks, chances are you have encountered Angela. Her positive attitude and dedication to the youth of the area is amazing to watch. She goes out of her way to make sure every child feels included and special and she does it with a smile. Thank you Angela for all that you have done, are doing and will continue to do.

Albert Kolff nominates Donna Teague. With her instigation and hard work a lot of the silent majority ended up speaking up and voting our feelings about saving the Mousam and keeping our dams. She just might be Mother Nature, as she knows the beauty and the beast of the river. As they say beware of Mother Nature.

Lauren Bell-Wayne and David Wayne nominate Donna Teague. Donna spearheaded and continues to lead the grassroots Kennebunk movement to keep renewable hydro electricity produced by our three Kennebunk dams and to maintain the Mousam River for recreational use. Her efforts have included mobilizing the community to vote overwhelmingly in the Save the Mousam – Keep Our Dams effort ballot propositions. Fighting mostly external, long entrenched, special interest groups, Donna and her team have heightened awareness of a crucial economic issue for the town and she has emerged as a leader to help ensure that all citizens of the town, regardless of their position on the issues, have an opportunity to have a say in the outcome.

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