And The Winners Are…

For the last 24 years, The Wanderer has had the pleasure of honoring one resident from each of the Tri-Town communities – residents whose friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members believe have selflessly given of their time and talents for the betterment of others.

While a ship’s keel is critical in aiding its steady progress through calm waters or rough seas and is an integral part of keeping everything operating in top form, the Keel Award Winners are also critical members of their communities.

Nominees are selected based on the following criteria: … must be legal residents for at least five years of Mattapoisett, Marion, or Rochester, and must have contributed in some way to the overall benefit of the community – either directly to town residents, or indirectly through efforts in promoting town activities, or working to keep the wheels of local government well oiled. The only restriction is that these persons cannot benefit from their efforts in any other way – either financially or politically (hence, sitting elected officials are not eligible).

And so it is our pleasure to announce the 24th annual Keel Award recipients for 2017: Danni Kleiman of Rochester, Diane Cook of Marion, and Bonne DeSousa of Mattapoisett.

Kleiman, who retired after 31 years as an educator at Rochester Memorial School, was instrumental in the production of an annual Shakespearean play. “The last play was in May and it was bittersweet, but good,” she shared. “The plays were the highlight of my teaching all those years,” she continued.

A letter received from a Rochester resident lauding Kleiman wrote, “…she makes the children feel “you’re okay” as you are, that everyone is special in their own way…” The writer also said that through her guidance, the students have been able to explore and imagine through creative role playing that allows each students to shine.

Kleiman is also the recipient of the 2017 Eleanor Donato Award from the Massachusetts Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for her efforts in leading the student council at RMS in their “Pennies for Patients” program for years. “This year, Rochester Memorial came in the top five schools of all the schools in New England,” she proudly declared. This year the program raised $6,427 – a milestone according to the society.

Over in Marion, Cook was nominated for being instrumental in the success of the Sippican School community garden. Started in 2006, the garden continues to flourish and has become a experiential part of the school curriculum under Cook’s guidance and dedication.

Cook said of the garden, “It started with a few trees and bushes.” Today, under with her green thumb and passion for educating young children through hands-on tasks, it has grown to include a green house, fruit tress, blueberry bushes, a strawberry tier, and many raised vegetable beds with an irrigation system.

“It began when Alice Waters introduced gardening in the classrooms in California,” Cook remembered. She said several parents and community members wanted to duplicate that type of learning experiment at Sippican.

“I got involved about a year after it began,” Cook said. But she added that it truly has been a community effort given the number of moving parts and work involved in making the garden flourish.

“You need someone who can coordinate with suppliers and organize activities with teachers, so I’m the coordinator – but I love it, I love watching the children experience new things out in the fresh air,” Cook explained.

Cook retired from Sippican where she taught for 23 years and now donates her time and gardening know-how along with working with the teachers to keep the garden a vital part of the learning that takes place at Sippican.

Mattapoisett’s award winner Bonne DeSousa was recognized for her fifteen years of dedication in bringing bicycling opportunities not only to Mattapoisett but also throughout the Southcoast.

DeSousa moved to Mattapoisett in 2002 and brought with her a passion for bicycling. But it wasn’t until she became involved with the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path that she realized just how important bicycling could be to the larger community. In 2008, she became the president of that group.

“I believe in advocating for bicyclists, everything from sharing the road programs, to safety, improving and expanding bicycling opportunities for people,” DeSousa said.

From attending meetings at the Department of Transportation to speaking at numerous local government meetings regarding the importance of funding such projects, from working with engineers and state officials, to helping Mattapoisett develop a “complete streets” master plan, DeSousa has pushed boundaries, educated the public on the D.O.T. process, and gained significant support.

With the next phase of the Mattapoisett Bike Path planned for groundbreaking in 2018, this latest piece will bring the path closer to Marion’s proposed path near the business park on North Street. Once those connections are made, the Southcoast Bikeway will be a few miles closer to achieving its goal of continuous safe pathways between Fall River and Provincetown.

Congratulations to the 2017 Wanderer Keel Award Winners and thanks to those who submitted nominations for people in our communities whose work on behalf of others deserves recognition.

The Winners of the 2017 Wanderer Keel Awards

By Marilou Newell


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