By Sheri Duff
Recognition for their tireless voluntary efforts in support of the Hands to Honduras-Tela program by Rotary International and Rotary District 7850 may have caught Linda and Alphonse “Al” Gilbert off guard at the Charlotte Shelburne Rotary Changing of the Guard on Thursday, June 6 at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. But it was no surprise for new District Governor Stephen Dates who nominated her or former Hands to Honduras-Tela (H2H-Tela) director John Hammer who were on hand to see Linda and Al recognized with Rotary International’s Service Above Self Award and Spouse of the Year Award respectively.
“It’s about time,” said Hammer of the recognition. “Linda and Al have been involved with the program since their first trip to Honduras in 2005. Linda is so organized and methodical she was able to figure out how to run this really complicated program. And Al is always right by her side, using his expertise to help the local Hondurans,” Hammer noted.
First presented with the Service Above Self Award from the Rotary District 7850, which includes 40 clubs in northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and southern Quebec, Linda was then honored with the prestigious Rotary International Service Above Self Award made in the name of Sakuji Tanak, President of Rotary International. Given to no more than 150 Rotarians annually out of 1.5 million members worldwide, Linda was the recipient of Rotary’s highest honor for an individual Rotarian.
“I was totally shocked when they honored me with the International Award,” Linda commented. “I had just received the District’s Service Above Self Award and was about to take my seat when I was asked to stay for a second presentation. It was such a surprise.”
Yet no one can imagine why. As director, Linda has helped make a huge difference for those in the Tela community. Thanks to her efforts about 20 to 25 service projects, including construction of a fully equipped Center for Expectant Mothers, public schools, and three public daycares, among other projects, are accomplished on an annual basis.
“This award is not about me,” Linda protested. “I give a lot of credit to the H2H-Tela committee, Al Gilbert, Dave Jonah, Norm Robinson, Colleen Haag, John Hammer, Dorrice Hammer, Sam Feitelberg, and Lois Knapp, who help make things run smoothly. Within this committee lies the project development team of Al Gilbert, Dave Jonah, and Norm Robinson who spend an enormous amount of time working on H2H-Telas’ successful projects.”
The next project on the committee’s agenda is a Preemie Center at the hospital. “We plan to construct a small wing to accommodate 20 newborns. We will raise the money, complete a design, and buy the necessary equipment. There is great need for it,” informed Linda.
“If not for the volunteers who work the fundraisers, help with collecting items to take to Honduras, or take time out of their everyday lives to go on the service trip, the H2H-Tela program could not survive,” Linda explained. “The work we do is accomplished because of the real dedication of many, many people. Most volunteers are members of the local community and it is because of them and their efforts that I feel very humbled by this award.”