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Circle Program supporter honored for volunteerism

John McRae of Moultonborough, a longtime supporter of the Circle Program (pictured here during an awards ceremony with Sen. Kelly Ayotte and the Volunteer NH staff), was recently honored for his volunteerism with a nomination as a finalist for the Spirit of New Hampshire Volunteer Service Award. (Courtesy) (click for larger version)
December 28, 2010
MOULTONBOROUGH — He has been fondly nicknamed both "North Star" and "Saint John."

Volunteer John McRae was recently honored by VolunteerNH.org when he was chosen as a finalist for the Spirit of New Hampshire Volunteer Service Award (senior category) for his extraordinary service as a 'superhero' and 'saint' to the Circle Program.

For the past 10 years, McRae has been a pro-active volunteer, donating 1,000 hours of his time annually to help build and maintain Circle Camp, the organization's facility for disadvantaged girls, located on Spectacle Pond in Groton. He is a long-time champion of the Circle Program's mission to provide socially and economically disadvantaged New Hampshire girls with new opportunities to develop the skills, courage and confidence they need to handle the challenges in their lives.

The curriculum at Circle Camp is based on a community-action framework for positive youth development, and the camp was made possible by extraordinary community volunteer efforts led by McRae.

In the early days, the Circle Program was a "homeless" non-profit, borrowing space at other local camps to offer low income girls the chance for a summer camp experience. As Circle grew and retained more girls, its volunteers realized that Circle needed a "home of its own," and so the board (through the leadership of Mary Ann and John McRae) raised almost $2 million to build Circle Camp.

McRae's input was critical to the successful development of the facility. He led the committee that planned the construction efforts, beginning in 2000, and later volunteered to be "Clerk of the Works" by overseeing the ordering of materials, working with local contractors, and organizing volunteers for much of the actual construction.

After the initial phase of building a road, hooking up utilities and building a dining hall complete with restaurant equipment, the second phase included building an office (dedicated as the McRae Office), an infirmary, and cook's cabin.

Later, McRae served as the construction foreman, supervising crews of volunteers who built seven camper cabins using Timberpeg kits.

Phase three saw the completion of the Arcadia Lodge, a 3,200-square-foot centerpiece for all camp activities including a stage, auditorium, a library with fireplace, an arts and crafts room, a loft for the counselors, and more bathroom facilities. McRae rallied together the community of local builders and developers who lent their construction expertise while providing discounted materials and talent. The lodge was built in record time (62 days), and was ready for campers when they arrived in July of 2008.

Since that time, McRae has continued to put the finishing touches on each building, and to maintain the new facility. He has single-handedly built benches for the auditorium; shelving, cabinets and a work table for the art room; storage window benches and shelving for the library; and six bunk beds in all seven camper cabins.

McRae's craftsmanship has made Circle Camp a beautiful, safe space that is the ideal healthy environment where girls can learn how to be their best possible selves.

In addition to his work at the Circle Program, McRae has also volunteered for other non-profit organizations in the following capacities:

He has been a docent, builder and board member at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (since 1995) and served as "Clerk of the Works" for the HORIZON project – a large expansion of the Science Center.

He has been a board member for the Loon Center for three years.

For Squam Lakes Association, McRae was "Clerk of the Works" for the building of an activity center for summer campers (this past year), and he also served as volunteer "Clerk of the Works" for a major expansion and renovation of the Moultonborough School System.

In his 'spare time,' McRae drives for Meals-on-Wheels twice a month; drives for the Caregivers; and also visits hospitals and nursing homes with Izzy, his Bernese Mountain therapy dog.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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