BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Deb Witkus, community outreach coordinator of Greater Falls Connections in Bellows Falls, announced this year’s winners of their ACE, Active Community Engagement, awards. These have been given annually since 2013 in recognition of local individuals who are active in community engagement in the Greater Falls area. They officially state, “These are members of the community who work tirelessly to make a difference.”
Rockingham Free Public Library children’s librarian Samantha Maskell, a 2014 winner, adds, “They are the people who don’t make the press releases, but they have such an impact.” This year a business and a community organization were added for awards that were divided into an ACE of each suit of a standard deck of cards.
The Ace of Spades, for an outstanding local busines, went to Jamaican Jewelz Catering and Food Stand. They are recognized for their Covid-19 response by being “one of the first and most active vendors participating in the Vermont Everyone Eats meal program.” Their nominator, Gina DiCampo, highlighted their efforts to make “food for the homeless and those in need.”
In accepting the award Jewel said, “We continue to strive for the best and try to aid the community in any way shape or form we can. At Jamaican Jewelz, we are filled with a sense pride serving our community, and couldn’t have chosen a better place to live, raise a family, and conduct business… Thank you all, and as we say in Jamaica, ‘One Love!’”
The Ace of Diamonds, youth and young adult award, went to Katrina Bostwick. She is a member of the Friends for Challenge Youth Club that lends peer support to those experiencing discrimination related to LGBTQ identities. Her nominator, Hailee Cochran, said, “She is a caring sibling who does so much to support her mom and sister! She is also an incredible peer supporter who is always willing to lend a hand or a compassionate ear when a friend is in need. This summer she connected with statewide organizations to learn how to be an advocate for her peers and then built a LGBTQ support group for local youth. Her smile brings joy to all who know her.”
The Ace of Hearts for an individual went to JR Lane, a recovery coach for Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield. His nominator, Brandon Tenney, noted, “He is also in the community gathering support and helping others all the time.”
Lane says, “My boss is always reminding us that we’re in the business of saving lives, and that is exactly what we do. This recognition for the work I do on occasion is nice, but I am not in it to be recognized… I am honored to be part of this much needed and life saving work.”
The Ace of Clubs for an outstanding organization, club, or volunteer group went to Our Place Drop-in Center in Bellows Falls. Witkus nominated the organization. She said, “Our Place has been working so hard to feed, clothe, and house our most marginalized community members for years; as community partners, it is clear Our Place goes well above and beyond. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they have responded at a moment’s notice to meet every challenge with grace, generosity, and kindness.”
Director Lisa Pitcher said, “We have always been committed to serving our community, but the past eight months have been truly even more challenging than usual. All our employees have worked diligently, week after week, to ensure people have wholesome hot meals, an adequate supply of nutritious food to prepare at home and the help they need to access additional resources to meet their essential needs. We are grateful for all of the community support we receive that helps us help people in need. We are also thankful for the many partners who work tirelessly to help people in the community and recognize that it takes all of us working together to make a difference.”
Find more information about Greater Falls Connections on Facebook or at www.greaterfallsconnections.org.