Ceremony Held Tuesday
By Alexander Plummer
Hampton Union, Friday, June 15, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/photos@seacoastonline]
HAMPTON -- Nita Niemczyk and Patty McKenzie were named citizens of the year by the Hampton Rotary club at a ceremony on Tuesday, and above all, the pair wants everyone to know that while they were singled out for their work, they couldn't have done it without the help of others.
"This is a bonus affirmation of years of having fun working with wonderful teachers, students and volunteers," McKenzie said. "We both are just so excited, and we are accepting this award on behalf of all of the people and volunteers who have helped Nita and I throughout the years."
The pair were honored for their ceaseless dedication to the Hampton community, which includes a bevy of charitable endeavors. Niemczyk has been active in the community since 1992 and has been involved in numerous programs through the Hampton Community Coalition.
The coalition is a nonprofit community action group working to improve the health and well-being of Hampton area children and families, particularly those caught in difficult life transitions or without a permanent home. One of the coalition's main ventures is the alternative to out-of-school suspension program. The program came as a result of business owners coming to the coalition with the problem of suspended kids hanging around their businesses causing problems.
The kids were given tutoring and made to perform community service as part of the program. Two years in, she became coordinator, and she is thankful for the opportunity to help out in the community.
"I moved here in 1992 and never ever want to move again," she said. "It is very important to give back to Hampton and I feel I have a personal need to give back because I feel blessed in my own life. I have the support of my family and my kids. People here are so nice, how can you not want to give back? Every little bit makes a difference."
Along with the suspension program, Niemczyk helped with the emergency pantry at the Trinity church, the Fire Department's toy bank, and has helped find resources for families in crisis. She also helps with a series of programs she puts on for town seniors, including the popular apple fest.
McKenzie, who has worked extensively with Neimczyk on many of the aforementioned ventures, has consistently focused her activities at the coalition toward administration, fund raising, running the outreach effort and the Hobbs House help center, as well as providing after-school programs and mentoring vehicles.
"We both feel unworthy of this award," McKenzie joked. "This work is just so satisfying and you really feel like you are making a huge difference in the community, and we hope that our dedication to volunteering will serve as an example to anyone else who wants to volunteer."
The ceremony was held at the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel by the Rotary Club of Hampton. Both women spoke and a $1,000 award was given. The pair decided to give the money to the coalition's homeless fund.
"The ceremony was the Rotary Club's recognition of individuals in the community who best exemplify the club's motto of service above self, and we were pleased to recognize long time community supporters Patty McKenzie and Nita Niemczyk for their extensive contributions to assisting those in need," said Rotary Club adviser and master of ceremonies Bob Casassa. "They really work to build long-term solutions to the community's needs, and we were thrilled to recognize them and were also pleased that those that they have worked with over the years could join them at the ceremony."
Casassa was quick to stress the importance of having members of the community who give their time and energy to others.
"It's impressive what they do," he said. "They really do manage to stay in the background, and they are very deserving of the recognition bestowed on them. Theirs is an organization that quietly helps people, and I hope that others see what they are doing and follow in their footsteps."