TOWNSEND -- Susan and Ken Gerken received the William E. May award for service to the community on Saturday.
In a ceremony at Townsend Ridge Country Club, surrounded by 175 friends, family members and neighbors, the Gerkens were honored for their volunteerism and involvement with local groups.
"We're so honored that our efforts are joined together with the spirit of our friends, family and with the community," Susan Gerken said after the ceremony. "It's a blend of volunteering and caring, and it helps create a kinship of givers, not takers."
Named after former Townsend Police Chief William E. May, who also served as the evening's Master of Ceremonies, the award honors those who give back to the community.
Since retiring, the Gerkens have dedicated their time to volunteering with local organizations, including the Senior Center, the Library, Townsend Historical Society, Townsend United Methodist Church and the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach Food Pantry. They have also worked with Habitat for Humanity in Townsend and elsewhere.
In the keynote speech, close friends Paul and Judy Concemi highlighted the Gerkens' penchant for helping others, saying that in times of sadness, Susan would always bring friends and neighbors food, and when anyone needed help with yard work, Ken would be over in minutes, ready to assist.
"Susan and Ken have friends all over the country, and they have maintained those friendships forever," Judy Concemi said.
Paul Concemi, a former Townsend selectmen, added that their efforts have made a huge difference in the lives of many in town.
"I'm sure there are many, many other stories about Susan and Ken. They'll all share the same theme -- treasuring friends, loving life and helping others. Townsend has been the fortunate recipient of all of their contributions, both individually and as a team," Paul Concemi said.
The ceremony was organized by the William E. May Endowment Dinner Committee, led by Chair Lindsay Morand. The night included a raffle for donated baskets and gift certificates, as well as a dinner prior to the speeches.
Morand said the Gerkens were a natural choice for the award this year.
"I think that Ken and Susan Gerken are the most wonderful and giving people in the town. They spend their days doing for others," Morand said.
State Rep. Sheila Harrington, who presented a proclamation recognizing the couple for their service, said that the Gerkens' reputation preceded her into the Townsend community.
"When I first was told about Ken and Sue, I was told that they are the epitome of the saying, 'If you want something done, ask a busy person.' And that's exactly who they are," Harrington said. "They give so unselfishly to the town, whatever the need is."
On behalf of the selectmen, Colin McNabb declared Saturday Ken and Susan Gerken Day in Townsend, citing their humility as well as their service.
"We can all learn from their example of quiet charity," McNabb said.
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