Derry/Londonderry chamber honors McLean, Sonshine Soup KitchenBy CHRIS GAROFOLO
Union Leader Correspondent
October 21. 2017 12:51AM
DERRY — The Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce honored Art McLean of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry and the Sonshine Soup Kitchen as its citizen and business of the year, respectively, during its annual awards dinner Thursday evening.
The chamber’s yearly event, held at Birchwood Vineyards in Derry, has presented an award for a local business since 1991 and a Citizen of the Year since 1965.
McLean, director of the Boys and Girls Club, has been with the organization full-time since 1974. Chamber members called him a true example of a community leader who has made a positive difference in the lives of so many in Greater Derry.
He is praised for his passion for working with youth, motivating club members toward a positive direction. Some have stopped him out in the community to share stories about how he changed their life and set them on a course for the better.
McLean, the members say, welcomes each child by name as they enter the club. Six individuals on the club’s board of directors are former members of the Boys and Girls Club.
Before the crowd of roughly 200, McLean said he has had the “greatest job in the world” because of the staff and the club volunteers.
“I’ve always felt from Day One that volunteering and being part of the community was actually something that everybody should do ... you really never become part of a community unless you spend time volunteering and helping those who are less fortunate than you,” he said.
Outside of his work with the club, McLean is a member of multiple civic groups in town — the Derry Veterans Assistance Fund, the Viviana Leon Memorial Foundation, the Derry Rotary Club and the Derry Town Council.
McLean has been a Rotarian for more than 40 years and has been “instrumental in the annual Rotary auction that has raised over $250,000 and spearheaded the Rotary Super Bowl raffle, again raising yet another $250,000,” said Joshua Bourdon, chairman of the Derry Town Council and McLean’s neighbor.
Bourdon said McLean selflessly serves the community and could have earned the citizen of the year award anytime within the past few years.
The Sonshine Soup Kitchen, now in its 28th year of providing food and clothing to the needy, was recognized for the essential value the nonprofit brings to the community, according to the chamber.
Linda German, chairman of the soup kitchen’s board of directors, said when she was told Sonshine won, she was speechless for 27 seconds, joking that was a new record for her.
She called the honor a “wonderful salute to our efforts” as she accepted the award.
“We were flabbergasted, we’ve been feeding and clothing the needy for 28 years,” she said.
The kitchen moved into its Crystal Avenue location after more than 20 years in the First Baptist Church, offering a larger, more centralized base of operations in Derry.
Sonshine volunteers averaged 53 meals each day for a total of more than 13,000 at the soup kitchen just last year alone.
Kyle Pitocchelli, president of Aspect Virtual, presented the award, saying no business has been more dedicated to the community and creating a positive impact than the soup kitchen.
“The team at Sonshine Soup Kitchen should be so proud of what they’ve accomplished,” he said.
Chamber members also used the annual dinner to welcome its incoming officers for 2018.
Nancy Michels, of Michels & McKay, will serve as chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.
Courtney Moore of TLCM Environmental Engineering will serve as treasurer, and Eileen Keefe of Parkland Medical Center will take over the role as board secretary.