CARIBOU, Maine — Instead of selecting just one individual or organization for the “Spirit of America” award, which honors volunteerism, Caribou city councilors voted on March 11 to recognize all nine nominees — seven individuals and two organizations.
The Spirit of America Foundation is a non-profit established in Augusta in 1990, which honors volunteerism, and their tribute is typically given to members of Maine municipalities to recognize their community service.
2019, however, is the first year that Caribou has participated in this tribute, and many councilors did not want to narrow down the recognition to just one community member.
Before councilors nominated a single individual from a list of nine, Caribou City Manager Dennis Marker informed them that the tribute can in fact be granted to multiple individuals or organizations.
Councilors Nicole Cote, Hugh Kirkpatrick, and Jody Smith all nominated Roger Felix, commander of the Lister-Knowlton Post 9389 VFW in Caribou and also a mentor at Loring Job Corps in Limestone.
“[Felix] does a lot of community service in the Caribou area,” said Cote. “He was part of the Dahlgren-Skidgel Farm of Hope and many other activities in Caribou. He also works with Loring Job Corps students as well, and they post colors at local events and funerals at the veterans cemetery. They’re a very active group, and he is a very active person who contributes a lot to the Caribou community.
Kirkpatrick said he agreed with Cote’s nomination and Smith also nominated Felix alongside the Caribou Rotary Club, a local service organization.
“I’ll go with Roger Felix,” said Smith, “but I would also like to see the rotary club in there as well. Their group encompasses about 30 members, so I would like to recommend those two.”
Councilor Thomas Ayer nominated Caribou Marketing and Events Coordinator Christina Kane-Gibson “for all the work she’s done and continues to do” for the city.
“She’s been a great asset to this community,” said Ayer. “She spends just about her entire life on her job, not just the hours she’s been given.”
Councilor Joan Theriault nominated Barbara Aiken, an active citizen volunteer who has helped numerous children in the area as well as service organizations.
“I’ve worked with her a lot,” Theriault said of Aiken. “If anyone needs anything, she’s there to do it. Whether it’s to cook or sew, she is tireless, so that’s who I nominate.”
Councilor David Martin nominated Dr. Valerie Waldemarson, who leads the Caribou JMG program, which encourages high school students to participate in community events and fundraisers.
“She’s everywhere,” said Martin, “and she does a lot.” He then said he hoped the council would present more than one recognition.
Other nominees recommended to the council were Sean Pelletier, an active volunteer and philanthropist; Channel X Radio; Cary Medical Center Communications Director Bill Flagg, who has helped numerous causes to support the elderly; and Connie Michaud, a clerk who has spent over 30 years of her life working for the city of Caribou.
Martin made a motion to award “all who were nominated” and the councilors unanimously agreed. Marker said that the city will contact each of the individuals and possibly hold a formal ceremony recognizing their philanthropy.