Full disclosure: Two former Cambria Citizens of the Year are friends. However, I had no idea, other than I think they are pretty swell people too, how the system works. So when I called Mary Ann Carson, the Cambria Chamber of Commerce executive director, I assumed, like many of us folks who read the annual announcement for Citizen of the Year nominations, that a popularity campaign ensued.
Not so much. Not at all, actually.
In 1973 when Cambria native and one of the founders of the Cambria Historical Society, the late Wilfred Lyons, was named the first Citizen of the Year, the program ran exclusively through the chamber, according to the records on hand at the local chamber office. When Lyons won, it was a secret until the official announcement during a later Chamber of Commerce dinner. But in approximately 2008, the program changed.
Now, anyone in the community can nominate a Cambria resident that they believe worthy of the title. Reasons for nomination can range from “overall service to the community, whether ongoing or long-term, in one or more areas, or for a significant one-time contribution,” as stated on the nomination form. (Forms are available at the chamber office, or on the chamber’s website. But hurry with your nomination because it ends Monday, Nov. 30, 2015.)
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The forms are next reviewed by past Citizens of the Year. “By consensus, they select and recommend three nominees. The chamber board of directors will select the winning nominee,” Carson explained.
On an average, 10 to 15 people are annually nominated.
“This is not a campaign,” Carson stipulated.
She suggested people or clubs campaigning for their nomination by sending in multiple forms and letters about their nominee will make no difference toward the final selection.
“Our past Citizens of the Year take this nomination seriously,” Carson said, adding that a letter-writing campaign for one single person is not necessary.
Chamber of Commerce announces the new Citizen of the Year in late December. He or she, or even a couple if they are equally significant in their service to the community, are feted during the annual Chamber of Commerce Installation Banquet, set for Tuesday evening, Jan. 12. Friends and family can purchase tickets to the event, Carson said.
The volunteer bios of former Citizens of the Year tend to hover near the gold-standard of volunteerism. It’s a recognition that is well-deserved.
But not everyone can serve a plethora of nonprofits, or devote spare time to a cause that is near and dear to their heart. We can’t write a check for every plea that comes to us through the mail — even those that send us free greeting cards, notepads, calendars and address stickers along with heartbreaking photos of abandoned animals or disfigured children. But we can deposit a few cans of vegetables in the local food bank barrels. We can donate our gently used goods to nonprofits with storefronts. We can open the door for another person. We can smile at the people we walk pass on trails. We can let someone else have that parking spot closest to the market. We can send a note or give a call to someone who lives alone, or invite them over for a Sunday or a holiday supper.
When I think about it, there is more we can do than not do. It’s by the way we give that makes each of us a citizen of the year.
Charmaine Coimbra’s monthly column is special to The Cambrian.