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Littleton Bids Farewell to Two Community Leaders

September 30, 2009
LITTLETON—Residents from across the North Country gathered on Monday evening to bid farewell and honor four the decades of community service of Don and Juanita Gilpin.

The Littleton couple will be moving, after 45 years of residence in the North Country, to northern Massachusetts to be closer to their children. They will be leaving behind a legacy of community advocacy, volunteerism and leadership in both their professional and private lives.

Don, a social worker, established White Mountain Mental Health in 1964, the first clinic in the region offering mental health services. He served as the executive director for a decade and was instrumental in establishing the clinic's transition house, Gilpin Residence, on High Street.

In recognition of his work promoting mental and developmental health services in the North Country, Don was the recipient of Littleton's first Citizen of the Year Award. He has also been awarded New Hampshire Personnel and Guidance Association's Robert Kennett Award, and the Northern New Hampshire Mental Health and Development Service's Citizen of the Year Award.

Matching Don's passion for community development, Juanita, a surgical nurse by profession, pursued her own interests and helped to establish the Littleton Head Start program as well as being a founding member of the Littleton Food Cupboard program, the Littleton Residents for Open Government (LOGS), and serving on the Littleton Citizen Advisory Board and the Women's Guild of All Saint's Church.

In 2006, the couple joined efforts to establish the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program in Littleton. This came at time when the Littleton Police Department was under tight budget constraints and officers and administrative positions were being cut. On their own initiative, they completed a training course in Massachusetts in order to bring the program to Littleton. This has had significant and lasting impact for the town.

Chief of Police Paul Smith says of their contribution, "With the personnel shortage and the increase of services requested, the volunteer program has been essential in our survival in order to provide proper services to the community. Don and Juanita were the guiding light and spearheads of the program."

VIPS now has a membership of 15 volunteers that have contributed over 1000 hours of volunteer time to the Police Department in area such as front desk duties, computer inputs, prosecutorial assistance, house checks and special events planning.

Friends, fellow volunteers, and community leaders celebrated these accomplishments over refreshments at Littleton Regional Hospital's cafeteria. Several party-goers recalled stories and a citation issued by Governor John Lynch recognizing Don's years of service to the North Country was read.

The Gilpins were also presented with several departing gifts for their new home. Fellow members of the VIPS program gave the couple an EasyReader, a device that projects book text on a TV screen. This preceded an unveiling of a 42 inch flat screen TV bought by members of the community.

The pair was visibly moved.

Don thanked the crowd, adding "a community is made by caring people."

As for continuing their life-long commitment to volunteering, the couple has already made a call to the police station of their new town, ready to bring their expertise and enthusiasm to a new VIPS program.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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