unsung heroes

Manchester Select Board member Jan Nolan, from left, Unsung Hero Award honorees Gary Saunders and Sally McManus, and Select Board member Greg Cutler. The board awarded the annual honor on Tuesday.

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MANCHESTER — Service to the area’s senior citizens and youth was recognized Tuesday night by the Manchester Select Board, as Sally McManus and Gary Saunders were honored as co-recipients of the board’s annual Unsung Hero Award.

McManus, of Arlington, and Saunders, of Danby, were chosen for the annual honor, which recognizes volunteers who have made an extraordinary contribution to the quality of life in the greater Manchester community.

McManus, who serves as treasurer for the Northshire Seniors, and Saunders, who leads Boy Scout Troop 332, were both present for the award. They were joined by a crowd of about 30 friends, family and, in Saunders’ case, members of Troop 332 — all wearing masks. Those supporters gave the pair a standing ovation for their service.

McManus describes herself as a private person who doesn’t seek out the limelight. But she was humbled by the honor.

“I really felt a great sense of appreciation,” she said. “It was very nice. I felt it very deeply.”

Saunders was caught off guard as well, and moved to see members of Troop 332 in the audience. (They obtained credit towards the citizenship in the community merit badge for attending the meeting.)

“I knew I was invited but I didn’t know I had my whole troop here,” Saunders said afterward.

Reading from her nomination letter, Linda O’Leary said when she met McManus six years ago, she “quickly learned why she filled a critical role” as treasurer of the Northshire Seniors group, and in service to seniors in Manchester and beyond.

“Her role extends far beyond the Northshire Seniors,” O’Leary said. “If you want to know what’s happening with senior citizens, Sally should be your primary resource.”

“Not only does she professionally manage our accounts, she fields countless reservations for meals, and any other task that needs to be accomplished,” O’Leary said.

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“Due to Sally’s quiet demeanor and selfless acts she could easily be taken for granted. The recognition of receiving this honor would show her just how much we all appreciate everything she does for so many us and so many others,” O’Leary said of McManus.

A Brooklyn native who arrived in Arlington 28 years ago, McManus previously worked for United Counseling Service in Bennington, working one on one with clients. She started with the Manchester Go-Getters luncheon group and said she “sort of inherited” the leadership of the “Sassies” — the Seniors of Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland.

“I see that the people really enjoy getting out and socializing,” she said. “A lot of them live independently and don’t get to meet with other people. This gives them a chance to socialize, which is a key piece of keeping them well. “

Saunders, a retired IBM executive, was nominated by Ron Levene, whose letter was read by board member Greg Cutler.

“Gary gives of himself, does so steadfastly, without hesitation and with no other motive but to help our boys become great young men and leaders in our community,” Levene said of Saunders. “I can think of no one more deserving.”

“Over the past six years I have watched in awe as Gary has worked tirelessly to insure each and every scout has a great experience. Even more important is that he has been a quiet, calm and steady leader of the local Boy Scout troop for years,” Levene said. “Gary has enthusiastically lead this troop, rallying other parents to get involved so our sons have a place to learn, experience leadership, gain a sense of achievement, connect with our community and have fun along the way.”

Saunders, who was a Boy Scout himself, said when he became an adult, “I realized the stuff I was doing was a lot more than hiking and camping — it was teaching me leadership skills and how to be a good citizen in the community.”

Being honored was “quite a privilege,” he said. “It’s a small thing I do compared to what the community does for our families.”

The award, which the Select Board took over from the former Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce in 2008, has been a longtime passion project for former board Vice Chairman Wayne Bell, who retired from the board last year. Jan Nolan is now overseeing the honor for the board, and Bell was in attendance Tuesday night.

Reach Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-447-7567, ext. 119.


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