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Hampton Rotary’s Citizen of the Year

By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, June 15, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
AWARD WINNERS — Hampton Rotary President Don Lamprey (left, next to Patty McKenzie) looks on as Chairman Bob Casassa presents a plaque to Nita Niemczyk of the Hampton Community Coalition. Both award recipients share the title of Rotary’s 2007 Citizen of the Year.
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- The Hampton Rotary Club celebrated two of the Seacoast’s most dedicated volunteers at the club’s annual Citizen of the Year breakfast, held on Tuesday of this week at the Ashworth by the Sea.

Sharing the honor for this year’s award are Patty McKenzie and Nita Niemczyk of the Hampton Community Coalition (HCC), a non-profit community action group "working to improve the health and well-being of Hampton area children and families."

The award brought warm accolades and congratulations from Rotary Club members, as well as from guest speakers Rev. Peter Lane of Trinity Episcopal Church and Selectman Ginny Bridle, director of the Village Preschool.

Trinity Church, located at 200 High Street in Hampton, houses both the school and Hobbs House, the facility where HCC is based. Niemczyk serves as the parish secretary for Trinity.

Formed in 1995 as a partnership between schools in Hampton and a core group of volunteers from the community, HCC assists families in transition, connecting them with various Seacoast area agencies and offering a selection of programs designed to provide struggling families "a hand up."

Programs include the Hobbs House Help Center, the Transportation Assistance Program, the Outreach Workers’ Emergency Food Pantry, the Quarterly Distribution of Non-Food Stamp Items, Kids’ Kupbord; and the Homeless Assistance Fund.

HCC also offers the After the Bell activity program for grades 6-8 at Hampton Academy and the Winnacunnet Homework Club, and was instrumental in the formation of the Hampton Beach Free Medical Clinic, the Alternative Out-of-School Suspension Program, and the Rockingham County Youth Association, among others.

Stepping up to the podium, Citizen of the Year Committee Chairman, Bob Casassa observed that the award "acknowledges those outside of our club who embody our motto 'Service Above Self.’" He called McKenzie and Niemczyk "worthy recipients" of an honor that "is long overdue."

Speaking next, Rev. Lane — humorously making light of Niemczyk’s secretarial skills — said that Hobbs House has "become a remarkable place, and the heart of that place is Nita."

"Whoever comes through the doors of Hobbs House are immediately met by someone who truly knows how to love her fellow human beings," said Rev. Lane. "[Nita] shows true compassion [and] meets every one of them where they are. She enables them to say [for] themselves, 'everything will be OK.’"

Singing McKenzie’s praises from behind the podium, Bridle outlined the award recipient’s "adventures in volunteering" and the many programs in which she has been involved or developed, including HCC.

"Patty McKenzie has spent her life volunteering and organizing people to make life easier for struggling families," Bridle said. "She has also found many opportunities for citizens of Hampton to get involved in their community, making Hampton the great caring and nurturing community it is."

After a brief history of HCC was offered by Casassa, both recipients were presented their award plaques and a $1000 check (designated to HCC) by Hampton Rotary President Don Lamprey, before taking turns to address the room.

McKenzie offered her own kudos to the Rotary Club for its own involvement in community matters and the support the club has provided to HCC over the years. Niemczyk also expressed her appreciation for the relationships and partnerships that help HCC fulfill its goal.

"We don’t do it alone," said Niemczyk. "Together we make a difference."

Offering his personal congratulations to this year’s Citizen of the Year award winners, Lamprey noted that McKenzie and Niemczyk "really, truly talk the talk and walk the walk of our motto, 'Service Above Self.’" The pair received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

"That was so cool," McKenzie said following the presentation. "This is so inspiring. This is huge. I’m really humbled."

For her part, Niemczyk marveled how "[members of] the Rotary, who do so much, would choose me. It’s a huge honor. And I can’t find a descriptive word to say how thrilled I am to be Citizen of the Year with Patty. [She] has been my hero almost since I first met her."

Volunteer opportunities — as well as valuable assistance — are always available through the Hampton Community Coalition.

"Think about what you’d like to do in the summer and fall," said Niemczyk, "then call me!" To do so, dial up the Hampton Community Coalition at (603) 926-4936. Or, stop by Hobbs House at 200 High Street in Hampton.

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