The Littleton Area Rotary Club bestowed a non-Rotarian Paul Harris Award on Brenda Aldrich of Sugar Hill at their annual changeover meeting held recently.
Paul Harris, a founding member of Rotary International, created a foundation that supports worldwide Rotarian projects including international relations, maternal and child welfare, literacy, youth leadership, vocational education and building peaceful associations throughout the world. Many of you know of Rotary’s work as the worldwide leader in eradicating polio. This award was given to Brenda Aldrich as she exemplifies the Rotarian spirit in many of the foundation’s areas of service.
“Service above Self” runs in families. The Aldrich family has served the community for generations through its volunteer and vocational work.
Brenda, because of the examples set by her parents and the encouragement given to her by them, exemplifies Rotary’s areas of service.
According to information provided by her mother, Maxine Aldrich of Sugar Hill, Brenda attended grade school Sugar Hill, graduated from Littleton High School and University of Maine at Farmington, culminating in a teaching degree in elementary and special education .
During her school years, she began her lifelong volunteering by working with a special education group in Lisbon, an active Grafton County 4-H member, and a Sunday School teacher, to name a few. Building the tennis court in Sugar Hill was a 4-H community service project and Brenda was very involved, including fundraising.
She was selected and journeyed on an International 4-H Youth Exchange to Nepal after her second year of teaching. The exchange paired young adults with families in rural communities throughout the world promoting sound agricultural practices and building global friendships. She has continued to support the organization and young professionals in the agricultural field. Aldrich still keeps in touch with fellow IFYE’s and the organization, in her words, that “opened my eyes to the world.”
After college, Brenda taught special education in North Dakota on a Native American Reservation and taught special education in Montana, working on a ranch summers. “I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do,” her mom, Maxine Aldrich, said.
Then, the passion of her life began: Joining InterServe and working in Afghanistan for 12 years with the International Assistance Mission (IAM), an organization of like-minded agencies from countries around the world.
To get a glimpse of the work this organization does, the 1991 International Assistance Mission International Assistance Mission’s calendar states:
“After a decade of war, Afghanistan has the highest number of refugees, highest infant mortality rate, lowest life expectancy in the world and the lowest per capita income in Asia.
Established in 1966, IAM seeks to meet the needs of the people in this suffering land. It draws together specialists from various countries who work in a number of projects.”
The mission, based in Kabul, has work in 4 areas: NOOR Eye Care and Training Center, Community Development, Health Work, and Education. IAM built \ a Physiotherapy School to train Physical Therapists to treat the physically disabled and the many victims of landmines, working with orthotic and prosthetic technicians to assist their patients. Other activities include vocational and rehabilitative services, a cooperative workshop for the handicapped, maternal and child wellness, research and development of solar energy for hot water heaters and solar ovens, working with the local village and Afghan government to provide specialists and technical assistance on a variety of levels to meet identified needs.
While in Afghanistan, Aldrich did a number of behind the scenes roles.
According to Brenda, “My direct supervisor used to call me “Radar” because I just got things done (and because of a couple of incidents in which I acted a bit too much like Radar on the MASH television show).”
Her first year and one half, she taught 3-4th grade at an international school for students from Canada, USA, Scotland, Holland, Hungary, and Finland, including teaching English as a Second Language and her daily lessons in the Afghan language.
During her second year with the mission, the country’s situation was deteriorating so the school was closed and she switched to other jobs.
Her time in Afghanistan was not idle. Over the roughly twelve years she was in country filled in as needed when staff transitioned to new positions or her colleagues were on home leave. She tutored the daughter of one of the Nepali Gurkha Guards at the British Embassy and worked as the assistant to the finance officer (bookkeeper). At times, she provided administrative, educational, and bookkeeping assistance to the following: Eye Work, Solar Energy Work, Hydroelectric Project, Mother & Health Child Clinic Project, Community Development and General Services/Maintenance Department (plumbing, electricity, painting, carpentry, auto repair supervision) and Donor Relations (finding funds for projects). For a period of time she was assistant to the Director of the Mission and was also loaned (seconded) to the UN Program for wheat delivery and distribution.
Think behind the scenes : if it needed doing, Miss Aldrich probably did it.
According to family members, Brenda wrote monthly newsletters to inform mission patrons of the work the mission was doing on the ground in Afghanistan. On her stateside vacations, Brenda visited churches, individuals and organizations that supported her work in the field. Brenda continues to be involved by serving on a board that funds several projects in Afghanistan.
Since return in 2000, Brenda has been managing Harman’s store in Sugar Hill.
As a business manager, she has supported the growth of the Lupine festival. Since 2004, Harman’s, under Brenda’s leadership, has started the Lupine Open Air Market. The 2017 event hosted 90 independent businesses this year and attracting thousands of visitors to our area, impacting the whole region’s economics. Harman’s also orchestrates an Autumn Celebration Weekend in Sugar Hill. These events give an opportunity to many area entrepreneurs who use their businesses as their main or for a side incomes
She is very generous with space to nonprofits, as well as seeing that the publicity goes far and wide to attract people to the area for both weekends. Both are documentable economic boosts to our region. Educational workshops are always a part of the events as well as featuring local preforming artists.
Brenda hires youth to work in the business, training them in the art of customer service and retail duties, giving many teens their first taste of work.
One of her passions is to support local agriculture, featuring many products produced within one hundred miles of Sugar Hill. Brenda and her family store support local businesses by featuring their products in the store, their catalogs, and in their gift baskets that are sold nationally and internationally. Harman’s is known for their quality products, choosing to work with local small businesses in New Hampshire and Vermont.
When non-profits, especially those devoted to literacy and education ask for contributions for fundraisers, Harman’s supports them, again widening the circle of support.
Through the store and her personal resources, Brenda supports the Sugar Hill Willing Workers (holiday gifts for children and shut ins, merit awards for further education) and makes numerous donations to local non-profits for fundraising efforts .
She is a member of the Community Church and has helped with the youth education programs of the organization.
In her spare time, she raises a large family garden, sharing extra bounty with many in the community.
Before Memorial Day, she places IOOF flags on members’ graves in cemeteries Sugar Hill, Franconia and Easton.
She promotes local not for profit events through the business’ web page
According to her mother, Brenda is, “…Community minded, but that doesn’t really describe it. She’s interested in other people and places herself last. She does a lot of things unnoticed.”