Distinguished citizens Bruce Beebe, ABC of Wilton will be honored

Environmental and educational champions will be honored as this year’s Distinguished Citizens at the annual Wilton Community Celebration Saturday, Nov. 1, at Rolling Hills Country Club.

Bruce Beebe and A Better Chance of Wilton will receive the awards presented by the Wilton Family YMCA, the organization announced Tuesday. The annual event will be sponsored by Fairfield County Bank.

Mr. Beebe and the educational organization were selected from several nominations that came from the community, Y Executive Director Bob McDowell said. “It was a difficult choice for the committee to select the two winners. Both Bruce Beebe and the ABC volunteers have made significant contributions to improving the quality of life in Wilton and are eminently deserving of this honor.”

Mr. Beebe and ABC of Wilton join a list of more than 75 individuals, businesses and organizations that have received the award since the Community Celebration began in 1986. It honors outstanding volunteers who have served the town on a long-term basis and make a positive difference that benefits Wilton and those who live here.

Those who nominated Mr. Beebe, who has been president of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust for 10 years, offered such comments as:

  • “I can’t think of another Wilton resident who has put in so much time and energy to protect Wilton’s environment.”
  • “Bruce’s work has literally shaped the look and feel of Wilton today and preserved the character of our town for residents of tomorrow.”
  • “His 30-year effort of hard work, dedication and commitment to preservation makes Wilton a special town.”

One of those nominating Mr. Beebe was Pat Sesto, director of Wilton Environmental Affairs. She pointed to Mr. Beebe’s 10 years of service to the Conservation Commission from 1993 to 2003. During that time, she said, “He was ever ready to pick up a shift or two at Hazardous Waste Day, lead a clean-up crew down to the river banks during our town-wide Cleanup Day, or guide a hike in town park.” He was also, she said, the “go-to-guy to help with field work … ably caring for the parks assigned to him.”

Mr. Beebe said on Wednesday he was “highly honored” to be selected for the award.

“When I think of all the work so many volunteers do in this town, it’s kind of overwhelming.”

His priority has been open space. “According to the surveys the town does every 10 years for the Plan of Conservation and Development, the citizens favor open space, so that’s where my role has been along with many others,” he said, including members of the Wilton Conservation Commission and Wilton Conservation Land Trusst.

As head of the land trust, Mr. Beebe is responsible for overseeing more than 800 preserved acres in Wilton with trail building and clearing and exploring potential new acquisition opportunities. Last year, under his leadership, the land trust joined with the town of Wilton in purchasing conservation rights for 39 acres known as the Keiser property on Cannon and Seeley roads.

This partnership, Ms. Sesto said, “is not one shared commonly in other towns.”

“It’s been a privilege working with so many dedicated people,” Mr. Beebe said. In addition to singling out Ms. Sesto, he added he has especially enjoyed working with Wilton High School students, particularly members of the ecology club and the senior interns.

Mr. Beebe also served for 25 years as a volunteer at Weir Farm National Historic Site where he helped in securing its designation as Connecticut’s only national park. He is a member of the Weir Farm Art Center Board and served as president of the Stewardship Committee of the Weir Preserve, which is an asset of the art center.

In other roles, Mr. Beebe has served as a vestry member and assistant treasurer for St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and for more than 30 years played a significant role in the Patriots Committee’s staging of the annual Nod Hill 4th of July Parade.

“Bruce is truly a town treasure and is most deserving of a Distinguished Citizens Award in 2014,” the Y said in a press release.

ABC

ABC (A Better Chance) National began in 1963 and offers academically gifted students the opportunity to receive a richer education than they could in their home districts. There are now about 309 member high schools in 23 states, but ABC of Wilton is one of only four that has a co-ed program. In 1996, a boys house was founded here with two scholars who lived in a small home next to the library. As the program grew, the boys moved to a larger home in Cannondale, where eight young men now live with a resident director’s family. A girls’ program began in 2008. Six girls live in the house by the library with a resident director.

The students who attend Wilton High School succeed academically and participate in extracurricular and community service projects. To date, 100% of ABC seniors have graduated and been accepted to four-year colleges. This fall, JR Bonhomme, who was student body vice president, will attend American University, JP Clarke is headed to Notre Dame University, and Raphael Mettle will attend Middlebury College. Raphael was also the first ABC scholar from Wilton to win this year’s national A Better Chance Academic Achievement Award for outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated leadership abilities.

The program succeeds through the work of a 30-member board and more than 150 community volunteers who serve as host families, college coaches, mentors and drivers. It is self-supporting through local fund-raising events and donations from businesses, foundations and hundreds of Wilton families. Recognizing these youngsters live away from their families where they might normally learn the skills needed for day-to-day living, this year, ABC of Wilton added a life skills program to fill this vacuum. A group of Wilton residents offered programs in nutrition, personal banking and finance, personal safety, stress management, leadership, and navigating social media.

“ABC volunteers give a tremendous amount of their time, talent and treasure to ensure the continued robustness of this important youth development initiative in our community,” the Y said. “It is for this reason that they have been selected to receive a Distinguished Citizen Award at this year’s Wilton Community Celebration.”

For more information on the Wilton Community Celebration, call Y Associate Development Director Laura Downing 203-762-8384, ext. 273 or email ldowning@wiltonymca.org.