Elise Bridge received the Ralph T. Gould Award at the Sept. 13 Cape Elizabeth Town Council Meeting. Councilor Jamie Garvin presented Bridge with the award after highlighting her many contributions to the town. Courtesy photo Matthew Sturgis

CAPE ELIZABETH — The 2021 Ralph T. Gould Award for Citizenship was awarded to Elise Bridge, Cape Elizabeth resident, on Sept. 13, in recognition of her community service to the town.

Established in 1986, the award honors the legacy of Ralph T. Gould and celebrates the community service that subsequent winners have done each year, said Councilor Jamie Garvin before presenting the award to Bridge.

Born in Cape Elizabeth, but having grown up in Damariscotta, Bridge returned to town to be closer to family, Garvin said. Since then, she has volunteered an abundance of time.

“Elise has always been someone committed to the preservation of the natural beauty around us. In the past year, she took that to a new level when she took up a plaulking crusade to clean up our town — literally one step at a time,” Garvin said. “For those who might not be aware, plaulking — or picking up trash while walking — is an offshoot of the plogging movement that started as an environmentally conscious marathon training method.

“Months of work culminated in her pinnacle effort of covering 20 kilometers around town as part of a fundraising effort to raise awareness and money for the Alzheimer’s Association, during which she gathered more than 165 gallons of trash. Truly amazing.”

Bridge has also contributed time to Maine Needs, a collective of volunteers who help residents get access to basic needs like clothing and hygiene products, Garvin said.

“In a time when, too often, social media is the home of bitter rancor and divisiveness, Elise and other compassionate neighbors of ours are using it to spread random acts of kindness and bring attention to ways we can help one another,” Garvin said. “Whether recognizing front line workers in our community with sweet treats of appreciation, or organizing both holiday and plain every day food drives, Elise and her fellow members of the Cape Kindness group are bringing joy to those around us.”

During the past year, Bridge has helped work on a new cause for those mourning loved ones who died COVID-19, said Garvin.

“COVID has had no greater impact than on those whose lives have been lost to this terrible pandemic, and the families and friends they left behind,” he said. “Wanting to be sure that the tragically growing tally of those lost did not become an abstract number, Elise took up the cause started by her sister Kristina called the Floral Heart Project’s Day of Mourning for COVID-19.

“In March, the organization led the placement of floral heart displays at locations around the country — including seven here in Maine — where ceremonies were then held to offer a place to acknowledge grief, as well as offer comfort and hope, particularly for those who had been isolated and unable to gather together to mourn.”

The pandemic has impacted everyone, bringing suffering and darkness to most people, but Bridge, through many acts of kindness, has brought positivity in a time when many needed it, he said.

“While these are all examples of true service to one’s community, the most incredible thing when it comes to Elise is they are just the beginning of a very long list,” Garvin said. “In fact, even just as I was sitting to write these remarks, I saw a post from Elise that she had been out on the Greenbelt volunteering her time and energy on Saturday — a national day of service — to help out with some much needed trail work.”

Upon receiving this year’s Ralph T. Gould Award, Bridge thanked the town council for the recognition and the councilors’ services to the town.

“I’m humbled to be listed among the prior recipients and honored, as a fifth generation Caper, to represent my family and try to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps of leading by example,” Bridge said.

Bridge’s work isn’t done yet, she said.

“This attempt to spread some kindness and gratitude with our community has been such a positive experience, and I look forward to continuing on this path,” Bridge said.

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