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Nominations invited for William E. May Endowment Award

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TOWNSEND — This October, the eighth recipient of the William E. May Endowment Award will be honored with a presentation ceremony and dinner at the Townsend Ridge Country Club.

But who will it be?

The event is always a major fund-raiser for the foundation, providing money used to aid the seniors of the community, current and future.

The award’s selection committee, a six-person board this year, will choose the recipient in early July, after carefully reviewing each and every nomination letter it receives until the deadline of June 30.

“We have many outstanding individuals that can and should be nominated, who have given so much of himself or herself for the growth or betterment of Townsend and its residents,” said Pauline Bradt, a member of the selection committee. “It was established to select and give credit to someone in the community who has done an outstanding job.”

The award was first presented in 2001 to its namesake, the former Townsend police chief. May credited Nancy Shepherd and Jane Jackson for putting the award together and praised the selections.

“There’s a common thread that winds through all of them and that is that they perform many acts of kindness, without expectation of thanks,” May said. “I was very humbled by it and I’m more humbled as the years go by I’m in pretty darn good company. It’s nice to be remembered.”

Since the award’s inception, it has also been presented to other pillars of the community, including Robert F. Tumber, Edward S. and Mary C. West, James Clish and the late Ethel Amiro, and Louise T. and Auguste H. “Hirk” Fortin Jr.

“It was a thrill and an honor,” Hirk said of the couple’s award dinner last year. “It was an absolute surprise.”

“It was very humbling,” Louise recalled, adding that, “we plan to nominate someone ourselves this year!”

May said he believes the fund was initially established to finance a new senior center, now a moot point with construction of the new Sterilite-funded facility imminent. Instead, the endowment has shifted to being an emergency account for the center, wherever its location might be. Recently, some of those funds were used to purchase a new copier machine for the facility.

The dinners continue to be the endowment’s greatest fund-raiser. Most services and items are donated and the fund only has to pay to use the country club for the event. Last year’s award dinner raised more than $5,000, by Bradt’s recollection.

“It’s a great way to generate revenue,” May agreed. “The dinners are great events, a great excuse to meet old friends and have a good time.”

Last year, much of the entertainment came from Hirk Fortin, who dressed in overalls and portrayed a character called “The Specialist,” an expert on privies. The act, which lasted for quite some time, had the audience in stitches.

“People still talk to me about that,” Fortin laughed. “I got a kick out of it.”

“This year’s winner will have a tough act to follow,” Louise added.

The recipient will be selected from a pool of nominations. Each committee member has a sheet of questions that are asked about every suggestion and given a score of one to five points, Bradt explained. The winner is the person with the highest point total at the end. The questions include, “who, what was done, how has the community been impacted?” and others.

“It’s very fair,” Bradt said. “It keeps us from being partisan toward someone, especially when it might be someone on our board, like when Nancy (and her husband, Roy Shepherd) was selected (in 2002).”

The winner will be notified as soon as possible, to make sure the prize will be accepted. That has been a struggle in the past, Bradt explained. Some people don’t want it at first and the committee has had to talk them into accepting the recognition. Many, like Louise Fortin, do not feel they are worthy, though she and her husband accepted the selection graciously when first notified.

Forced to miss the last two award banquets due to health issues, now under control, May is proud of the work the committee has done. The award may be named after him, but he believes the honor is not as much a result of what he gave to the community, but what the community gave to him.

“My legacy may carry on, but it’s the result of some great people,” May said I had a great team and a great community to work with.”

All nomination letters must be received by June 30 and should be addressed to the William E. May Endowment Committee c/o the Friends of the Townsend Senior, P.O. Box 972, Townsend, Mass. 01469.

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