Several people have asked for a copy of the speech that I gave when receiving this year’s Cohase Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award. Here it is, with love – and without my rushed reading:

I want to share appreciation for everyone fighting all of the million little uphill battles. In their personal lives. Professional lives. And civically-engaged lives. Please don’t forget to share your stories. The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned over the course of the last year is that everything we are and everything we do is completely intertwined. And I think that a majority of people don’t reflect on that nearly enough. Many aren’t remotely aware of the world around them. How are we supposed to solve global issues if we don’t even realize the issues our neighbors are facing? Or sometimes, realize the issues affecting us internally?

I want to take a minute to share appreciation for everyone in the room who spends their evenings in meetings and their weekends volunteering, especially when they’re sometimes the only people that show up. We’ve all been in too many meetings to count where the questions on the table are, “Are we doing any good?” “Should we keep meeting?” “How do we get people to engage?” I heard this great quote at the Women’s March rally in Montpelier this past weekend. To paraphrase, “It’s important to be an activist, but the real work is in those 10,000 meetings for social change. That’s where the important stuff happens.” Thank you for going to the meetings.

I want to share appreciation for everyone who takes the time to listen to people. Who shares coffee with a kid with a business idea or a parent who is struggling. Who is never too busy to send that email introduction that can transform lives – even the ones that can’t. Who takes the time to review an application. Who shares their perspective willingly, and respectfully.

I personally believe that each of us has a responsibility to contribute everything we can to bettering society. Thank you for showing up, for doing the work, and for changing lives.

Thank you for changing my life. There are a lot of people in this room that have shared their time, energy, support, and story with me. You have written the emails and listened. You have opened doors for me. You have challenged my point of view and helped me grow. You have provided cheers. And hugs. Thank you for keeping me going. I promise to pay it forward.

The Space On Main was founded as a nonprofit in 2017 and opened yesterday in hopes that it could promote a greater sense of community and connection for people living and working in the Cohase Region (Northern Upper Valley) of Vermont and New Hampshire. Here is my speech from the ribbon cutting ceremony:

For those of you who thought you should show up, but still don’t understand what the heck this is – thank you for being open and curious. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Space On Main is a nonprofit center for people to create. To Experiment. To share their passions. To learn. To have fun! To enjoy work again. And most importantly, to connect to the amazing people that are just outside of their current circle.

There’s a lot of suck going on right now. If all you experience, every day is your daily routine piled with whatever depressing information major media dumps on you, you’re going to feel it. People are losing their sense of community and their ability to connect with it. It’s in that community that you experience the hope, beauty, and energy of being part of a bigger thing. Of humanity. Of being alive.

And that’s the true goal of The Space. To facilitate community connections. To give you a spot to teach that skill that you’ve always wanted to share. To give you an outlet to display your talents. To learn from your neighbor. To get out of your PJs, off of your couch, and to work next to those other 100 people who are telecommuting for jobs elsewhere around the world. To share coffee. And Wifi.

Every person here today has had a hand in making this happen. And I can’t thank you enough. When Hill’s and Perry’s went out of business, the town felt this hard. Every meeting I went to was covered in a sadness that I and others really weren’t sure we’d recover from. I personally started thinking that I should move back to Seattle where my full-time office is located. I had shared the dream of a community-focused building with most of my closest friends and mentors for years, but it was usually tossed up as a pipe dream. I myself considered it a retirement dream. Then at a Bradford Business Association social, Marvin told me it was time to share it with Angela. I did. Right then. Almost exactly two years later, here we are.

Because of each of you. Some of you played particularly key roles, which I would like to highlight here today. The first two couldn’t be here today as they passed within this last year.

Carol Priestley. Who volunteered tirelessly and always brought us along. To church, school, library reading programs, Memorial Day parades, and every other thing that she could coordinate or help with. She taught me the value of giving back, even when you can barely afford to stay afloat. And she taught the love and commitment that comes from the sense of belonging to your community. The Village of Piermont raised me, because everyone was always chipping in to be a part of something bigger than themselves (and taking care of me in so many ways).

Hellen Darion. Who passed on her 103rd birthday. She was spunky, critical, and found wonderment in every aspect of life. I got to know Hellen by giving her computer lessons, which eventually turned into being her Google-searching partner. Over the course of 8 years, we looked up everything. We’d often take times just to talk and reflect over whatever came to mind. Hellen’s constant question was, “Do you feel like you’re doing the most you can do?” I’d often reply, “I want to do something bigger, but I don’t know how yet.” And then she’d tell me she wanted to kick me and to figure it out. She drove me.

Nancy Jones. You all tease the heck out of me for being on so many boards. You can thank Nancy for that. My entry ask was Bradford Conservation Commission. 9 years ago. She asked me to serve. She gave me that first sense of being a part of serving something on behalf of myself. She took me to countless association annual meetings and dinners and I was always happy to go. I didn’t really understand how powerful that was until just recently. She is a mentor, a friend, and a powerful woman role-model.

Marvin Harrison. He’s responsible for me being on another handful of boards. He has a way of telling people to ask me to serve, and then tells me I’m doing too much. He’s my go-to. The one I email way too many times a day to ask how to approach situations and people. The most respected person in any room. The wise-cracker. A friend and mentor. I’m going to steal his words for a minute – “My hero”.

Donna Williams. Who’s been a mom to me since high school. My best friend. She poses hard questions and inspires me. She keeps me grounded, supports me, and even when I have crazy ideas, she’ll do things like provide the IRS application fee for a nonprofit startup.

Ryan Lockwood. My partner in life, love, laughter. You should probably all give him a hug. He’s the one who laughs when I run around the house bouncing after an exciting meeting. He’s the one who comforts me when I’m so frustrated in the world that I can’t do anything except cry. He’s the one who encourages me when I’m doubting myself the most. Who does things like stay at The Space working all day and night to get it ready without once saying he’d rather be anywhere else.

Vin and Angela Wendell. They probably thought they were crazy 1000 times throughout this. I thought they were crazy. I appreciate everything they’ve done, but more importantly, I respect them so much. I know they want this just as much as I do. I can’t even begin to express what this means to me and to the community – once they understand what this is.

My board members. A team of my closest friends from both coasts. But not just close friends. The most intelligent people I know who would have my back in life and business. But also a team of my most trusted and respected friends who I knew would keep me in check, call me out, and make me stop to think things through.

And now everyone else. The hundreds of people who have provided an ear. Encouragement. Excitement. Their life stories in a coffee shop or at their dining tables. Who let me in and shared their passions. Who shared their frustrations. And their dreams. And their address book. And their monetary support. Holy crap you guys. This whole thing has blown me away, inspired me, challenged me, taught me, and given me hope.

We made a thing together. And I’ll never be able to express how much that means.

From Amazon: A revised and updated edition of the essential guide to grant-writing.

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