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Tilton man honored with Joseph D. Vaughan Award

Tom Gallant (left) is shown unloading food for the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund with volunteers Alex Phelps of Pike Industries and Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier. Besides providing meals, warm clothing and food for more than 400 people each year, Gallant heads the Caring Hands Across Tilton committee to assist the elderly and disabled, and has now been honored with the Joseph D. Vaughan Award for his volunteerism. (File Photo) (click for larger version)
April 20, 2011
TILTON — Since 1962, the State of New Hampshire, through the combined efforts of EnAGING NH and the New Hampshire State Committee on Aging, has annually recognized an individual or couple over the age of 60 from each county for their leadership and dedication to the elderly through the presentation of the Joseph D. Vaughan Award.

As the result of a nomination sent in by Tilton Welfare Director Heather Thibodeau, this year's recipient of that award for Belknap County is Tom Gallant.

Among his many acts of volunteerism, Gallant has been a fundamental force behind the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund for almost 30 years, helping make the holidays brighter for children and senior citizens.

In her letter to the nominating board, Thibodeau recalled the first time she met Gallant.

"My first introduction with Tom was late one winter evening, when I found him packing food baskets to fill the food basket requests of the needy in the community on the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Christmas Fund," she wrote.

Over the years, Thibodeau said she has watched Gallant not only work countless hours on the Christmas fund, providing food, gifts and warm clothing for those less fortunate, but continue his efforts year round whenever he finds anyone who needs a helping hand.

"Tom will call me with a situation he may have heard about and ask me to investigate it. He'll tell me that if I'm not going to be able to do anything (under my jurisdiction), to let him know and he'll take care of it," said Thibodeau.

And he does. Thibodeau said she never has a doubt that if someone in Tilton is in need, especially a senior citizen, Gallant will see they get assistance. For that reason, she felt he was the best person she could think of to nominate for the award.

"I don't know of anyone more deserving of this award than Tom," Thibodeau said.

Gallant said he was both humbled and honored by the award. When he read the letter which informed him he was one of the ten Joseph D. Vaughan recipients, he said his first reaction was disbelief, but he also felt somewhat embarrassed.

"I do this out of my heart, not for the accolades," said Gallant.

As the realization of the honor began to sink in, though, Gallant said he paused and looked at how he came to be who he is today; the 365 days each year he and his family commit to the TNS Christmas Fund, chairing the Caring Hands Across Tilton organization for seniors and the many hours and fruits of his labors that he gives readily to the town and its residents.

"When I first came here in 1971, at the age of 21, Lenora Sattler was involved heavily in this town…She really challenged me to do all I do today," Gallant said.

Nearly 40 years later, this newly bestowed honor now reminds him that other 21-year-olds need to be encouraged to get involved in their communities, as he once was by Sattler. Life and times have changed, he said, and volunteerism is low. Involving young people to develop the same sense of pride and commitment in a town and its residents, no matter what age they may be, he sees as vital to the success of a community.

Gallant said he is doing nothing special; nothing that others could not do as well, if they were only encouraged to step up. He is proud of his town and its residents, though, and all who work to make it a better place.

"I feel there is still a tremendous sense of community in Tilton that is not often seen in other towns," said Gallant.

Thibodeau acknowledged that Gallant's contributions and commitments to residents, and especially the senior citizens in Tilton, has been a valued and unmatched resource.

Town officials were also pleased to hear the news of his award.

"It couldn't go to a better person," said Patricia Consentino, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

She personally knows how hard Gallant has worked for senior citizens in Tilton. He helped her found the CHAT committee to assist seniors and disabled residents, and Gallant now presides over that committee. As a contractor, he is also committed to a construction project initiated through CHAT to turn the former Grange Hall in Lochmere into a Senior Center for the town.

"I'm really all about the children and the elderly," he said.

The award was named in memory of Vaughan, who was a state legislator for many years and an early advocate for the well being of senior citizens in New Hampshire.

Gallant and the other nine recipients of the 2011 Joseph D. Vaughan Award will be honored during a ceremony on May 10 in the Executive Council Chambers in Concord.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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