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Joyce Endee

Area non-profits prepare for loss of executive directors

Adaptive Sports Partners Executive Director Thomas Shovlin, his wife and Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Sarah, and their young daughter Briar will relocate to Pennsylvania later this year to be near family. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 01, 2021
LITTLETON — Thomas and Sarah Shovlin recently made the difficult decision to move back to their Pennsylvania roots after suffering the loss of two family members in the last year. They leave big shoes to fill as the Executive Directors of both the Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country and the Boys and Girls Club.

The young couple began to impact the greater Littleton region almost instantly when they arrived in early 2018. As Sarah took a leadership role at the Boys and Girls Club, Thomas began volunteering with the Adaptive Sports Partners in Franconia.

"We had a focused goal to get involved in the community and make a positive difference when we moved here. Sarah's position aligned directly with that goal. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with ASPNC and get more involved," noted Thomas.

Sarah stated, "If we weren't volunteering with the ASPNC programs, we were painting and cleaning the Clubhouse to make it a brighter, safer place for the kids. From the staff and the kids to the parents and the donors at BGCNC, they all became our family."

"When you pour your heart and soul into a place like that, it reserves a special place in your heart. My favorite parts about working at BGCNC are watching the growth and hearing about the kids' accomplishments," she added.

"At ASPNC, we have a tight-knit group of about 180 volunteers. Not only do we get out and do fun outdoor recreational stuff with our peers, but we also share the experience with people who might not otherwise be able to go out there," added Thomas.

Although the couple's time spent in leadership roles only spanned a few years, they both delivered tremendous change for their respective organizations. Facility improvements at BGCNC included increased ADA-compliance, the installation of a permaculture garden and a state-of-the-art kitchen and the increased utilization of an additional 5,000 square feet of interior space.

Shovlin also expanded club attendance and programming during her tenure. Before COVID struck, more than 250 children from 19 different towns had become members. Although the programs have returned, services only remain available today to families from Littleton and Lisbon.

"Safety is our top priority at BGCNC. The exposure risks were too high because we had children coming from several communities, and many of those kids lived with high-risk family members," noted Shovlin.

Thomas Shovlin transitioned from ASPNC volunteer to Executive Director two years ago, when founder Sandy Kellogg stepped down to pursue other interests. During his tenure, ASPNC saw a dramatic increase in funding support and became the first adaptive organization in the Northeast to launch a Tetraski program.

Last fall, ASPNC also received a $50,000 grant from the Tillotson Fund and NH Charitable Foundation to expand its existing winter hiking and snowshoe programs. The organization also successfully transitioned to digital programs last summer when outdoor programs couldn't be executed safely.

According to BGCNC board member Bill Bedor and ASPNC Chair Shane MacElhiney, both organizations have already begun the screening and transition process for new leadership. The Shovlins each gave six months' notice and said they would remain as long as needed until their departure in August.

Bedor said, "To say we are saddened and disappointed that Sara is leaving would be a massive understatement. At the same time, we support her 100% and understand her need to do what's right for her family."

"Thankfully, BGCNC has a new and outstanding unit director, which will help us deal with the transition. Nonetheless, that loss is significant. The Club has improved and grown in almost every way under Sara's leadership. She is a treasure and will be missed at so many levels: professionally and personally, by kids, parents, and Board, and also, by the community as a whole. She has touched us all immeasurably and will be a friend for life," continued the BGCNC board member.

MacElhiney noted, "At ASPNC, Thomas had the ability to transition from a well-respected and well-loved founding executive director seamlessly. He led with the respect of the community and a commitment to the mission."

"It's hard to capture Thomas's warmth and who he is as a person, as it is the strength they've both brought to the community. His commitment to the transition and being part of it for as long as he can speaks to the type of community leader that he is," added MacElhiney.

Though heartbroken about their difficult decision, the couple was quick to note the North Country's unique characteristics.

"We most looked forward to the landscape and the beauty of the area when we first moved here, but the community is so much more beautiful than the landscape. You can't leave your house without seeing someone you know. I'm definitely going to miss that small-town feel where everyone is open and welcoming," stated Sarah.

"We're both incredibly grateful for the opportunities and the way that the community has welcomed us with such open arms. I don't know how we will ever find or replace it again," she added.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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