LACONIA — In recognition of her outstanding commitment to the youth of Laconia, Elizabeth Brothers was named the recipient of the 2019 Debra L. Bieniarz Memorial Award at Monday’s city council meeting.
“There is no greater champion of children and youth in our community than the unsung hero who is this year’s honoree,” outgoing Mayor Ed Engler said, prior to announcing Brothers’ name to a packed city council chamber.
“She spreads love wherever she goes, and makes all of those in her life inspired to be involved. Adding softness with a warm smile or a word of encouragement, she is truly a light that shines on everyone around her,”
Each year, a committee made up of one city councilor, a member of the police department and a school board member selects the winner based on nominations from the community.
The award honors the legacy of the late police officer Bieniarz, who served the city and its youth with uncommon devotion, dedication and distinction, during her nine years with the department. At age 29, she suffered a fatal brain aneurysm as she arrived home after completing a work shift in 1987.
It was when Engler said this year’s award was going to the co-chair and a long-time board member of the Santa Fund that Brothers realized she was the recipient.
“I’m proud to be a member of this community,” Brothers said. “Eighteen years ago, I lost my son and this community rallied around us and helped us through that time in our lives that was very hard for us, but they surrounded us with love and took care of everything we needed so that we could heal and grieve. When I got back on my feet, I knew that it was going to be my mission in life to help other children and our community.”
Being part of the Santa Fund has been the best experience of her life, Brothers said, noting that annually the fund provides brand new winter gear for 700-plus kids.
“When people are in dire straits, we get the call and come to the rescue,” she said.
“I am honored and every single one of you deserves to be up here with me because you are amazing,” Brothers said of fellow Santa Fund volunteers.
Engler also spoke of Brothers’ role as co-founder of the local service group, the Cereal Heroes.
“She has helped to lead the boys in this group in dozens of projects to raise money for kids in need. She is helping to shape the future of the Lakes Region by guiding these young leaders of our community with her knowledge and altruism,” Engler said.
He concluded: “She deserved to be thanked and recognized for her many years of helping others while expecting nothing in return. She is held in the highest regard by her peers, family, friends and community members. She is a true hero and champion of children and others less fortunate.”