Serving the Maine Communities of Franklin County, Livermore & Livermore Falls
Jodie Gunther receives the 2022 Gary A. LaGrange Community Impact Award
Jodie Gunther receives the 2022 Gary A. LaGrange Community Impact Award

Gary A. LaGrange Community Impact Award

United Way of the Tri-Valley Area annually seeks nominations for the Gary A. LaGrange Community Impact Award. This award recognizes a business, individual, couple, or organization that goes above and beyond to significantly impact Greater Franklin County through their volunteer efforts. This year’s recipient of the award is Jodie Gunther.

Jodie’s commitment and passion for the community are evident in her mission-focused programs for youth at Old South Congregational Church in Farmington – most of which are designed to benefit the wider community. For many years, and throughout the pandemic she and the youth have provided free boots, coats, winter accessories, masks, and food through a variety of programs. These include the Coat and Cupboard where coats are given away every winter; the Supper Club that has provided hundreds of free meals – many of which are delivered to isolated seniors; and the free Pancakery Café. Jodie has coordinated a labyrinth made of donated food items that were then distributed to food pantries, and supplied 50 Thanksgiving baskets for Care and Share Food Closet. An annual project Jodie initiated is the Thrifty Santa Toy Sale. Held each year on Chester Greenwood Day pre-pandemic, the sale offered gently used toys to the community at very affordable prices.

Jodie’s nomination noted, “Jodie is a community leader who seeks new paths for service to the community. She welcomes new ideas and finds ways for others to grow and flourish. She enjoys being the “behind the scenes” guidance. Her creativity and vision for service ripple out into the community she loves. Jodie is a role model for kindness, compassion, caring and a positive attitude.”

Jodie was selected from a field of excellent candidates. We honor the following who were also nominated:

  • Heidi Wilcox, Chief of Wilton Police
  • Tiffany Estabrook, Day Care Provider and Selectperson, Town of Chesterville
  • Work First, Inc.
  • Motor Supply

Eligibility Requirements: 

The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area strives to unite people and resources to improve lives and build a strong and healthy community. Through direct funding and volunteer engagement, the United Way makes a difference every day. It is important for us to recognize those who have gone above and beyond to impact our community. This award is presented to an individual who best exhibits commitment, enthusiasm, caring and support in the following areas:

➔ Improving Health and Wellness (i.e., reduce food insecurity, access to medical care, etc.)

➔ Empowering our community to become more Mobile (i.e., ride share programs, homebound delivery services, etc.)

➔ Helping Children and Families with Housing Insecurity (i.e., house weatherization, housing updates, etc.)

➔ Increasing Self-Sufficiency and Independence through Financial Security (i.e., promote literacy, financial literacy, etc.)

Application deadline is February 10th, 2023. Requirements:

Nominees strive to improve the lives of Greater Franklin County residents through their volunteer efforts. This award is open to individuals that serve or reside in Franklin County, Livermore, or Livermore Falls. The volunteer efforts must be outside of the individuals work environment. They consistently go above and beyond to make a difference in our community, and through their signature efforts they stand out. It is on the shoulders of these giants of community service that we stand to reach our goals.


About Gary A. LaGrange:

Some people show their special spark even when they’re trying not to…to seek joy in what you give, not what you get … this was Gary LaGrange.  Gary’s commitment to serving others was lifelong. His passion for helping people with energy conservation fueled his career with Maine Community Action agencies, including building and repairing homes, facilitating fuel assistance programs, conducting energy audits and teaching home buyer education.  He was often asked to go the extra step to help a homeowner, and this he willingly did, often on his own time.

Volunteerism had a constant presence in Gary’s life … playing Santa for Headstart classrooms each holiday, directing hundreds of Christmas packages to happy children through Operation Santa Claus and fueling his love for the arts by spending many hours bringing sets to life with the Sandy River Players.  Upon retirement, Gary devoted himself to volunteering full time as a lead volunteer with the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area program called the Community Energy Challenge: building interior storm panels to save homeowners’ energy and providing energy education help to control their fuel costs – a simple idea with powerful and cost-saving results.  He was also a 5th Degree member and served on the Executive Committee of the Wilson Grange, as well as a site manager for East Parish Housing Ministry, helping rehab homes with visiting mission groups. 

Gary took immense pride in acting without expectation and encouraging others to do the same.  He walked beside us all towards a better community and that is truly impactful. Gary left a loving family and community behind passing away, December 15, 2013. The United Way is honored to continue his legacy of caring with this award.

Past recipients:

Crystal Cook, United Methodist Economic Ministry 

Rev. Susan Crane, Ecumenical Heating Fund

Barclays Employees

Trish and Gordie Flint

Tri-County Mental Health Services

Peter Judkins, Franklin Savings Bank

Flo and John Caldwell, Stratton/Eustis Food Pantry 

Verso Androscoggin Mill employees

Brent and Bertha Smith

The Board of Western Maine Homeless Outreach

Dennis O’Neil

Judy Frost, Western Maine Community Action

Shannon Smith, Wilton Blueberry Festival

Katie Hallman, RSU 9

Erica Emery, Rustic Roots Farm

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