Bennington Rotary marks Fourth with bell ringing

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BENNINGTON — The Bennington Rotary Club on Saturday conducted its traditional Independence Day bell ceremony at the U.S.S. Bennington ship's bell on the grounds of the Town Offices, and recognized the Mount Anthony Chamber Singers and their choir director, Lynn Sweet, for their achievements.

"The Bennington Rotary Club is proud to be able to have this ceremony today," said Ted Bird, the former club president who served as master of ceremony. "Because of the pandemic many things that we took for granted are now done with guarded caution. Our liberties have been cautiously curtailed over the past months. But hopefully we are now looking at the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Today we commemorate our heritage. We do so by ringing this bell that was given to our town to be preserved and protected as part of our American history," Bird said. "We will use this ship's bell, this Independence Day, with the necessary precautions in place, to let freedom ring."

Members of the club stepped up to the bell to give it 13 strikes, one for each of the original colonies. Sweet and soloist Claire Paquin, who sang the national anthem, struck the bell a 14th time, for Vermont's admission to the Union.

Bird noted that the coronavirus pandemic and other events have interfered with many of the club's initiatives, including the establishment of a local branch of the Green Mountain Rotaract Club, formed to link local college students and the community.

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"No sooner than the recruitment of students began, Southern Vermont College closed its doors," Bird said. "Then the pandemic struck and all of the colleges were forced to close their classrooms. Disappointed? Yes! But the idea of the Green Mountain Rotaract Club is not dead," he said. "We look forward to September when we can again meet and work with college students as they return to classes."

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The club's fundraising was hampered by the cancellation of the Garlic Festival, which deprived the club of the revenue it generates from producing the event's brochure, and the necessity of canceling its own Italian Night.

In addition, the announced closing of the local J.C.Penney spells an end to the bell-ringing undertaken jointly by the Bennington and Catamount Rotary clubs in support of the Fuel Assistance Program.

"But we Rotarians are survivors," Bird said. "As soon as we get the green light we will be ready to

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resume and practice our motto. "Service above Self."

Catherine McClure, a former superintendent of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, presented Sweet with a plaque recognizing the achievements of the Mount Anthony Chamber Singers, who she said "have embodied the spirit of hope during this pandemic."

McClure read aloud the names of chamber singers Emma Bicking, Garrett Currier, Elizabeth Malinowski, Claire Paquin, Olivia Surdam, Mollie Clark, Josiah Durfee, Aidan Forrest, Carson Gordon, Madison Hopkins, David Niemi, Sloane Rivers and Madison Tifft.

The Rotary Club coordinated with a number of local faith communities to ring their bells at 2 p.m. The Old First Church, St. Frances de Sales Scared Heart, St. Peters Episcopal, the First Baptist Church, Our Lady of Lourdes, Green Mountain Christian Center and St. John the Baptist have participated in the communal ringing each year.


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