Mary Beth and Dennis Robillard, right and left, were among six residents of Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach and Saco awarded Spirit of America Tributes by their municipalities and York County Commisisoners. Pausing for a photo with the Robillards, of Old Orchard Beach, Nov. 6 was York County Commissioner Allen Sicard. Tammy Wells Photo

YORK COUNTY — Annabelle Carpenter of Biddeford, Robert Biggs and Jean Saunders of Saco, and Cathy Chiasson and Mary Beth and Dennis Robillard of Old Orchard Beach, all share something in common.

What ties these people together is the spirit of volunteerism, which has culminated in each of them receiving a Spirit of America Tribute.

Recipients were recognized both by their municipalities and on Nov. 6 by York County commissioners. In all, 22 people from around York County received tributes.

The tributes originate with the Spirit of America Foundation, which was established in Augusta in 1990 to honor volunteerism. Tributes are presented to local individuals, organizations and projects for commendable community service.

The Robillards were recognized for a number of volunteer efforts, from his organization of the nightly, year-round,  flag-lowering ceremony in Memorial Park in Old Orchard Beach. The ceremony provides a way for the community to come together and recognize the accomplishments and achievements of those who have given the ultimate gift of life, and provides a tie to the past and future, according to a narrative read by Commissioner Allen Sicard. As well, the “Crutches4Africa” project Robillard initiated through his involvement with Rotary arranges for the collection and shipment of used and surplus wheelchairs, crutches and walkers to Africa; equipment is also dispensed locally. Mary Beth Robillard is chair of the Memorial Park Committee, and also directs Illumination Night, when small lighted candles are placed in paper bags, lining the entrance to the park, making it a special place for those who wish to remember their loved ones.

Carpenter embodies the Spirit of America for her 20-year commitment to helping the needy by cooking and working as a kitchen assistant at Bon Appetit, a Biddeford food kitchen. She is known for her generosity and her friendliness, and her nominators said helping others is in her blood, noted Commissioner Richard Dutremble.

Cathy Chiasson of Old Orchard Beach received a Spirit of America tribute for her involvement in a number of initiatives, including the “Sand4Safety” project which included the distribution of filled sand buckets to seniors needing assistance in keeping their sidewalk safe during the winter months. As well, she spearheaded the “Friends of the Libby Memorial Library OOB High School Liaison Program,” the “Senior2Senior” program, whereby teens and senior citizens come together to share talents, resources and support. The “Making Memories” initiative she instituted  includes a program whereby sixth-grade students took part in interviewing seniors about their lives and recorded their comments, to be shared by video.

Jean Saunders was recognized for the many volunteer hours she has devoted to Age Friendly Saco. Her efforts as director have led to the creation of a multi-generational garden at the Saco Community Center; installation of accessibility mats at Bayview Beach, enabling enjoyment of the beach for those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids  and the donation of a beach wheelchair and walker. Local businesses have funded a Handyman Program and database to connect residents with credible vendors; an adaptive tool library; and a Sand Buckets for Seniors program during the winter. Saco firefighters can now easily enter the homes of older residents in need thanks to the start-up of a Knox Box program. As well, year ago, the Habitat for Humanity Home Weatherization Program was introduced in Saco.

Robert Biggs was recognized in his role as executive director of Saco Main Street. Initiatives under his leadership include installation of 76 U.S. and Maine flags from the Saco River to Thornton Academy, and 30 painted “Adirondacks on Main,” chairs grace the downtown. During his tenure, a summer concert series, “Music in the Park”ing Lot between Dyer Library and the Saco Museum was initiated. Saco Main Street has continued to offer the Sidewalk Art Festival, the Classic Car Show, Pumpkin Harvest Fest, and the Parade of Lights. As well, Saco Scoop, a community gathering place, also serves as the central hub for Saco Main Street operations.

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