Barbara Saunders, who served as director of the Mary Johnson Children’s Center for 33 years, receives a Citizen’s Award from Middlebury President Laurie Patton.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton presented the 2019 Bonnie and John McCardell Citizen’s Awards to seven area residents—Harvey Green, Carol Green, Barbara Saunders, Helen Bigelow, Cleon Bigelow, Claire Ayer, and Mark Perrin—in recognition of their remarkable contributions to the community.

This year’s presentations were made at a celebratory dinner for the current and prior recipients of the award on October 22, at the President’s House at 3 South Street.

Middlebury College honors local citizens for exemplary volunteerism and service in a tradition that dates to the College’s bicentennial year in 2000.

Nominations come from members of the community, and a committee of faculty and staff makes the final selections. Every recipient of the Citizen’s Award receives a locally crafted medallion from Danforth Pewterers.

A complete list of past winners of the McCardell award is available on the Middlebury website.

Descriptions of this year’s winners, in alphabetical order, follow.

Claire Ayer, a longtime resident who represented Addison County in the Vermont Senate from 2002 to 2019, chaired the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, ushering in the landmark Death with Dignity legislation and leading the way on numerous healthcare reform initiatives, including support of rural hospitals, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, universal health care, and the expansion of access to reproductive health care. She won reelection seven times with overwhelming support from her constituents.

Ayer, who earned a degree in environmental studies from Middlebury in 1992, served six years on the Weybridge Elementary School Board, five as chair, and as a member of the UVM Board of Trustees. She served as a founding member of the Middlebury River Watershed Partnership and as an advisor to the UVM Extension Natural Resources Board, and as a member of the Middlebury Area Land Trust, the Otter Creek Natural Resources district, the Weybridge Conservation Commission, and the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Committee.

“Senator Ayer, you are a shining example of what it means to be a public servant, both to your neighbors in Addison County and to all Vermonters,” said Patton. “For how you have exemplified what it means to serve your constituents in ways that positively affect lives from birth through end of life, we honor you tonight.”

Cleon Bigelow, who made his mark on Middlebury through his construction business, is a familiar face to many in the community. He was the grounds and maintenance person at Addison County Fair and Field Days for 12 years and served on the Field Days board for 15 years, including three as president. He chaired the construction and renovation of the Field Days Lions Club food booth and this past fall led the construction of the Lions Centennial Pavilion in the Middlebury Recreation Park.

Active with the Lions, Bigelow helped form Vermont’s first eye bank and then chaired the Vermont Lions Eye Bank and the organization’s eyeglass recycling program. He chaired the effort to build, and led the construction of, numerous handicap-accessible ramps to improve access for local residents, and promoted the eye bank, hearing aid bank, text telephone program for deaf Vermonters, and Mobile Health Screening Bus.

“You continue to generously give of yourself to our community and inspire others with your commitment to bettering the lives of those around us, and it is our privilege to thank you with this award,” said Patton.

Helen Bigelow, a former nurse who also had a 25-year career at National Bank of Middlebury, has devoted much of her retirement to service in Addison County. She has been a Neat Repeats volunteer for almost 30 years and a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, including as sergeant at arms, for almost the same amount of time. She has served on the board of Retired Senior Volunteers, and as an active member of the Middlebury Lions Club.

“As a nurse at Porter Hospital, back in the days when there were three floors of patients and men’s and women’s wards, you helped care for the sick, the injured, and the recovering, and you continued that work as a Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association first responder in the 1970s and as a charter member and board member of Addison County Hospice,” said Patton. “Your lifetime in Addison County has been one of service.”

Carol Green, along with her husband Harvey Green, cofounded with Pat Boera the Festival on-the-Green, one of Middlebury’s signature summer events 41 years ago. For 25 years, the couple served as the festival’s program chairs. The pair worked behind the scenes as well as out front, garnering sponsors, lining up acts, coordinating vendors, and turning their idea into what has been described as “the best series of free performances in Vermont,” Vermont’s “Favorite Festival,” and a “Top Ten Summer Event.”

Through their After Dark Music Series, which the Greens co-owned for 21 years, they brought some of the great performers from the Festival on-the-Green back to town, offering some of the best nationally known blues, Western swing, folk, Celtic, Americana, and acoustic performers during the “off season” in an intimate setting—first in the Knights of Columbus Hall, then the United Methodist Church, and finally Town Hall Theater.

“Your ability to recognize musical talent and bring that talent to us has shaped our community for the better,” said Patton. “Tonight, Carol Green, we thank you, and Harvey, for bringing so much talent to us, and creating musical traditions that we continue to treasure.”

Mark Perrin, owner of Green Peppers restaurant in Middlebury, has been an active member of the community, serving on the boards of the Addison County Chamber, Mary Hogan Elementary School, Addison Central School District, Addison Central Supervisory Union, Hannaford Career Center, Workforce Investment Board, and State Board of Education, and serving as co-chair of the United Way of Addison County’s 2015–2016 campaign.

“You feed our community in many ways,” said Patton, presenting the award. “Your restaurant serves delicious pizzas, salads, and sandwiches—but much more than that, you serve up hope and opportunity. You employ our young people—especially high school students—and many underdeveloped workers in search of fresh starts. You have provided many with the second chance they’ve needed to turn their lives around. You and your wife, Donna, cook turkeys for our seniors during the holidays and volunteer your time as mentors and committee members, exploring how our communities can improve our childcare, financial literacy, nutrition, town relationships, and more.”

Barbara W. Saunders, director of the Mary Johnson Children’s Center for 33 years, has played a critical role in shaping the lives of children and families throughout Addison County. When she first arrived in Vermont in the mid-1980s with her husband, Richard, a career in early childhood education was not in her plans. But in 1986 she took the leap from education director at the Vermont State Craft Center in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow to Mary Johnson, alongside fellow codirector Bonnie McCardell, when the center employed nine full- and part-time workers at one site. During her career at the center, the demand for quality childcare expanded exponentially, and the scope of Mary Johnson did as well. Today, Mary Johnson serves more than 350 children throughout Addison County with more than 100 full- and part-time workers.

“Under your leadership, Mary Johnson became a model for Vermont’s early childhood programs,” said Patton. “Your imagination, high standards, patience, sensitivity, and energy helped broaden this important community resource—some would say lifeline—for working families.”