2018 Citizens Who Care Honorees
The Rotary Club of Andover thanks Daniel Doke Fine Art Portraits, North Reading, for donating the photography for Citizens Who Care and Educator & Student of the Year.  Thank you!
 

Victoria Bernard

One can’t help getting pulled into Vicky Bernard’s story when she starts talking about Ironstone Farm. Vicky’s is an infectious enthusiasm that’s wrapped in a graciousness that comes from her upbringing.
                    
Born in London, her education took her to Switzerland and later to the University Florence in Italy. Vicky met her husband on a ski trip to Switzerland, connected by Vicky’s brother. The story goes that Vicky’s brother asked his friend Alan if he minded that his little sister was coming along on the trip. That was ok with Alan, as long as she could ski.
 
To this day, skiing remains an important part of the Bernard family life. Their three children and nine grandchildren all ski. “Some of the spouses are reluctant, but it’s one of the few sports you can do with three generations.”
 
Vicky and Alan would later move to Boston, but when kids start to come along it was time to leave the city. Moving out of Boston, the couple lived in North Andover and in 1972 purchased their first house in Andover. They raised their three children in here in Andover.
 
In the early 1980s, Vicky decided it was time to leave the workforce when the travel requirements of her job increased. She gave herself two weeks to find something to do with her time. Vicky says she could ride a horse before she could walk, so the lure of Ironstone Farm comes as no surprise.
 
Andover’s Ironstone Farm uses the dynamic power of horseback riding to improve the lives of children and adults with needs. Vicky started as a leader and “sidewalker,” helping young children with disabilities as they rode on the farm’s ponies.
 
One of Vicky’s favorite stories is about a little boy who would come to the farm for his therapy with his father. When he started at Ironstone, he was terrified of the horses. The boy’s sobs could be heard as their car pulled into the lot. Clinging to his father, he would sob for the entire therapy session. But then one day, the car pulled up and no sobs were heard. Later, the boy was so enthusiastic about his time with the ponies that his father had to hold him back as he opened the car door. “I love the little ones,” Vicky said, “I get to see little miracles happen every day.”
 
Now, nearly 30 years later, Vicky serves on the Board of Ironstone Farm and leads the Governance and Nominating Committee. She glows when she talks about the Farm’s programs for veterans and their spouses, for people with memory care needs, and for cancer survivors.
 
One woman who came to a survivor retreat was so beaten down by the cancer that she felt she couldn’t deal with relocating to Texas with her family. Empowered by the retreat, Vicky said, she went home, packed up her car, drove to Texas, and started her own business. “Honestly, how can you not be committed to this? Everywhere you turn there are wonderful stories.”
 

Amy & chris bositis

More than a decade ago Amy and Chris Bositis were compelled to go to Africa to help fight against the spread of HIV. This journey led them to Zambia. During their opportunity to help this cause, they found themselves taking on a new mission fueled by the need of the children of Zambia. The Bositis family has since expanded from a unit of two to a family of six through adoption.
 
Five years ago Amy and Chris moved their family to Andover after spending several years working in Africa.  Andover not only offered a place that was close to Chris’s new position as a full time clinician at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, but also a fantastic opportunity for Amy and Chris to raise their four beautiful children in a place with great schools and opportunities to engage in sports and community activities. After spending a few years focusing at home, Amy decided to rejoin the workforce and also take a position at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. This is where these candidates for the Citizens Who Care Award have made a tremendous impact on the health of so many in the Merrimack Valley.
 
They have continued their work through Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to reduce transmission of HIV. Upon accepting a position at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Chris’ commitment to his patients was apparent, as demonstrated by his commitment to learn Spanish by attending the Spanish language immersion program during his first year here. In addition to his unquestionable commitment to his patients, Dr. Bositis has influenced the daily life at the clinic in numerous ways.  He is a gifted clinician, and many clinicians and residents turn to him for clinical advice for their most challenging patients. He is a passionate teacher as well; he is consistently described by our residents as one of the “very best” faculty we have, and has already been honored with the Outstanding Teacher/Faculty Excellence award for the same. 
 
Living in Andover, the Bositis’ are engaged in local youth sports organizations in Andover with their children, and continue their caring efforts to those in Greater Lawrence. Amy has expanded her efforts to helping people to not only those that are at risk or have HIV, but also to the chronically homeless and those who have been affected with substance abuse. Chris works as an attending physician at GLFHC training new family medicine residents and serves as the Director of the HIV and Hepatitis C Program. Both of these honorees have a strong faith base that led them to work with the most venerable populations both in the Merrimack Valley and abroad.
 

Dianne caraviello, educator of the year

“I teach the whole child,” says Bancroft Elementary school Kindergarten teacher Dianne Carviello. “Academics are important, but so is the social, emotional, and behavioral life of a child.”
 
Dianne has been teaching in Andover since 1994, mostly teaching Kindergarten, but also occasionally 1st and 2nd grade. As such, Dianne has an impact on Andover students as they are just beginning their educational journey. She’s quick to point out the teachers she works alongside, including her instructional assistant Karen Torres, without whom, Dianne says, she cannot teach.
 
Dianne and her husband Chris moved to town in 1996, so she is involved with Andover education from three different perspectives: as a teacher, resident, and parent. Those three lenses make it easy for Dianne to see what the “whole child’s” needs are.  Seeing her student’s whole needs led Dianne to go back to school for a Master’s in Social Work.
 
In addition to serving some affluent neighborhoods, the Bancroft School district also includes Andover Housing Authority’s family housing at Memorial Circle. When Dianne needed to complete a community-based project for her Master’s degree, she knew that the families living in Memorial Circle had needs that she could help address.
 
That was back in the early 2000s when MCAS testing was just starting up. Dianne’s project was outreach to families to let them know about MCAS testing dates and practice tests, and provide coaching for parents for whom English is often not their first language. “Parents didn’t know about school activities. For many there is a language barrier. Many had no computer access, no internet, no cars.”
 
Her experience with her Master’s project led Dianne to start the volunteer program Family to Family to assist families who didn’t have access to information and activities that other Andover students have. Family to Family assists with sports, theater, scouts, and summer camps. The first year Family to Family raised $6,000 to send students to Rec Park for summer camp. The Rotary Club of Andover gave $2,500. They ran a summer book club with Bancroft teachers mentoring over the summer.
 
“My role as an elementary teacher is not just curriculum, it’s everything else. It’s parents, teachers, and children. It’s social and emotional development. There’s so much more to a ‘whole child’ than academics.”
 
With four years until retirement, Dianne remains the connector between Family to Family activities. But when she and her husband moved to Maine a few years ago, Dianne knew it was time to find a new way to manage Family to Family.
 
In the last few years, volunteers have taken on responsibilities. Recent Citizen Who Care honoree Claire Stahley took on sports. Another Bancroft teacher translates parent notices from English to Spanish. “It’s important that people are involved and connected. That’s really the key,” Dianne says.
 
Dianne is passionate about her work, which is far reaching, so this introduction could go on for another ten minutes, so I’ll end with Dianne’s words, “Teaching is my day job. Because I’m right here, I see the need all day. I don’t ask permission, I just do it. It’s for the kids.”
 
STEVE CARON
Steve Caron was already serving, or had served, on the Town of Andover Audit Committee and the boards of the Bellesini Academy, Notre Dame Christo Rey High School, and the Professional Center for Child Development when he heard what would be fateful words during a Mass at St. Augustine Parish in Andover. It was a passage from the book of Matthew, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”
 
As Steve tells the story, he didn’t hear a single word after that. He was focused on, “I was in prison and you did not visit me.” “I took it literally,” Steve said, “If we were being graded on this we’d get a zero.”
 
At Father Cleary’s advice, Steve connected with the Andover Knights of Columbus, and then the Archdiocese. But then about three weeks later, he received a call from a colleague who knew about his volunteer and board service, “would you be interested in joining the Order of Malta? Do you have any current interests?” Funny you should ask, I just started looking into prison ministry. There was silence on the other end of the line, and then he heard, “The Order of Malta just named prison ministry as one of its priorities.”
 
A busy husband, father, and business owner, Steve wasn’t able to spend as much time visiting incarcerated people as he wanted to. So he searched for something he could do locally that would fit his limited time.
 
In 2009, he decided to publish a newsletter, The Serving Brother, Catholic Spirituality for the Incarcerated from the Order of Malta. It serves the purpose of a church bulletin except that it is focused on Christian instruction.
 
As anyone familiar with printing and publishing knows, there are significant upfront costs to a print publication. What started as a small run of 5,000 copies distributed to northern New England, has grown to over 55,000 copies distributed across America, the Caribbean, Canada, Aruba, Fiji, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and more. Catholic groups across Andover and local college alumni groups are involved in the publication and shipping.
 
Last fall, Steve and three other men from the Prison Ministry were awarded the Order of Pro Merio Melitensi, an order of merit bestowed by the Order of Malta. Recalling the Order’s military origins, Steve and the other honorees were given the rank of “Knight Commander,” which is comparable to Papal Orders and Britain’s Order of the British Empire. As Steve said, “We all understand the historical context, and how receiving such a ‘commission’ binds us with our Brother Knights who came before us!”
 
This Brother Knight, having grown up in North Andover, jumped the border with his wife Evelyn to live in Andover, were she grew up. Their children have been involved with the newsletter since its beginning, helping with packing and shipping. To his children, he posed this question, “How do you live? It’s one thing to say what you intend to do, but how do you live your life?” It’s a question we can all ask ourselves.
 

David floreen

Dave Floreen spent 38 years working with the Massachusetts Bankers Association working on public policy. Dave worked on legislation for the heat loan program, consumer and retail regulations, environmental and hazardous waste issues.
 
With that in mind, it’s a might be a little surprising to learn that Dave once had the following headline written about him in a Springfield, Mass, newspaper, “Banker said, ‘It’s time for THE talk.’”
 
Imagine you’re sophomore college sitting in one of those huge campus lecture halls, in this case at UMass Amherst. Your political science professor tells you that he’s invited an executive from the Massachusetts Bankers Association to give a talk about lobbying at the State House. You settle in to listen. The speaker, Dave Floreen, is walking up and down the aisles as he talks. Then he says, “How many of you had health education in high school?” Most students raised their hands. “How many of you learned about the dangers of drug and the effect use and misuse can have on your brain and in your life?” Most raised their hands. “How many of you had sex education, learned how to use a condom, learned about the dangers of STDs?” Again, most hands went up. “Ok, how many of you learned about money management and the effect use and misuse of money can have on your life?” A handful of hands went up.
 
Dave went on to talk about a unique financial literacy internship program that he helped develop for UMass students in which interns developed innovative ways to expand financial knowledge of their fellow students. “My goal,” Dave said, “is to try to get young people to start to thinking about what life is really like as a full fledged adult.”
 
About this time, Dave learned about the Credit for Life program. It became his retire goal to bring the financial reality check program to Andover High School students. Looking for a local partner, he approached his good friend and Service Club member Brad Heim. “Would the Service Club be interested in bringing the program to Andover?” Dave said it took the Service Club board about five minutes to come with an enthusiastic yes.
 
Credit for Life takes more than 70 community volunteers to run. Students start by talking about their career choice and potential income with an adviser, who helps them calculate monthly gross and net income. Budget in hand, students head off to find out how far their hard-earned income will go as they cycle through stations and learn about the cost of housing, transportation, health, food, insurance, loan debt, pets, and more. The day after the 2017 Credit for Life program at Andover High, Dave overhead two students talking about the program, “Great program,” one said, “but it scared the ‘bleep’ out of me.”  And that made Dave incredibly happy.
 
Dave is also deeply involved with South Church. He’s a senior Deacon and helped raise funds to restore the church steeple and build the addition. Dave and his wife Carol have lived in Andover for over 40 years, where they raised their two daughters, both of whom graduated from Andover High School.
When asked why he volunteers, “The community is only as good as the people who make things happen. Credit for Life is a win-win for everybody in our community.”
 

maryruth luther

Community service takes many forms and the people who volunteer are as varied as the needs. Sometimes the variety of needs and types of service are embraced by one person who serves in many different ways. MaryRuth Luther is one of those people, although she’ll tell you that all she does shovel horse poop, sometimes that’s the job that needs to be done.
 
MaryRuth volunteers for Ironstone Farm where one of the many jobs she undertakes is mucking out the stalls, which she’ll tell you is not as bad as you think is it. But MaryRuth also works with Ironstone Farm equine therapists on early intervention. She gets to work with the youngest children, ages 18 months to three years. Children in the early intervention program often have developmental delays and serious health issues. Riding on the Ironstone Farm ponies strengthens core muscles and mimics the motion of walking. It’s also, as MaryRuth will tell you, a lot of fun for the children and for her.
 
MaryRuth and her husband Mike and daughter Claire have lived in many places, starting where she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis, they moved to New Jersey, Boston, North Carolina, England, Montreal Canada, back to North Carolina, and then to Andover. Throughout the family’s moves, MaryRuth was committed to volunteering and community service.
 
MaryRuth has been involved with daughter Claire’s schools from the beginning. In North Carolina, she served on PTO and PTA boards and on the local Education Foundation. She also served on the Arts Council of Caberas County, bringing cultural programming to the local schools.
 
In Andover, MaryRuth is one of the founders of Parent Connection at the Greater Lawrence Technical High School, where Claire is a senior. Parent Connection organizes programs for parent and students, including regular showings of the movie, “It Can Happen to Anyone,” that shows students the lifelong impact of actions. MaryRuth plans to stay on with Parent Connection after Claire graduates next month so she can help bring the “Credit for Life” program to the school.
 
Yet another hat MaryRuth wears is a 19th century bonnet when she teaches third graders at the Andover Center for History & Culture’s “Andover at Work in the 1820s” program. MaryRuth says she comes to the history center for fun. “I get to dress up!” she says, referring to her 1820s gown, cap, and bright red ribbon which she ties in a big bow around her waist. Her face lights up when she talks about teaching young students about history, about helping them imagine what life was like without the modern conveniences, when “childhood” meant something completely different.
 
MaryRuth joined the Board of Directors of the history center in 2015, where she says she gets to do all kinds of fun things. With fellow Board member and friend Karen Simmonds, she is half of “K&MR Catering,” cooking dinners and providing hospitality for history center events in what is likely the smallest kitchen in Andover.
 
Those of us who work with MaryRuth, know that the joy she finds in volunteering is infectious. From shoveling horse poop to managing 19th century wardrobe malfunctions to helping high school students learn about life, MaryRuth shares her joy and makes our jobs that much easier.
 

natalee rozon, student of the year

Rosa Rivera has raised an incredible daughter.

Andover High School senior and Student of the Year Natalee Rozon is a bundle of energy, intelligence, and goodwill. Her weekly schedule is enough to put any of us under. Somehow in between classes, Interact Club meetings, Show Choir practices and competitions, leading and choreographing for the Dance Club, volunteer and community service, and work, Natalee managed to achieve straight A’s all through high school, qualifying for the National Honor Society.

Many of Natalee’s volunteer activities are through the Andover High School Interact Club, the high school version of the Rotary Club, of which she is Vice President. This past year Natalee was part of the Interact team that helped set up Andover Day, directing and guiding vendors to their spots on Main Street. She worked the Rotary Club’s Andover Cares event helping with setting and taking down the event. The annual Feaster Five road race is a favorite volunteer activity. And not just because of the free apple pies! For the race Natalee is part of the team that sets up and serves water to runners. “It’s always really cold,” Natalee said, “It snowed this past year. But it’s always fun.”

Natalee’s favorite Interact event is raising money for Special Olympics at a Boston Garden Celtics game. Last year’s team did such an amazing job, that the club was invited back again this year. With volunteers stationed at every entrance, with dance and songs, Natalee and the Interact Club raised $10,000 to support Special Olympcs through a 50/50 raffle.
 
Fellow Interact Board Member and best friend Chrispen Chokureva Jr., who couldn’t be here tonight, wanted to let Natalee know how proud he is of her.
 
"Ever since joining Interact Club my sophomore year, it has been an honor to work and collaborate with Natalee. She is a great example of a hard worker whose drive shows how much she cares about her community. Natalee is a role model for the Interact Club members and anyone she works with, in general. She has inspired so many people, including myself, to give back to our community. She is the true definition of a dedicated citizen. Congratulations Natalee on this well deserved award, I am so proud of you. Natalee will definitely continue to inspire others as she goes onto college and pursues her future aspirations."
 
When asked what motivates her to volunteer, Natalee said, “Growing up in a low income, single parent household, I realized that in comparison with other kids in school, I didn’t have the same opportunities. Nothing was handed to me. However, being in that situation, I also knew that other people have it worse than me. It feels good to give back. It’s rewarding to help.”

Family is important to Natalee. She lives with her mother in Andover and babysits regularly for her niece and nephews. Natalee’s grandmother came to live in Andover from Puerto Rico after the Hurricane Maria flooded her street and left her without power and food. “She was waiting at the door with her bags in her hand when my sister went to get her.”
 
Natalee’s mother Rosa, the oldest of 8 children, had to drop out of high school to support her younger siblings. When Natalee heads off to Brandeis University this fall, she will be the first generation of her family to attend college. “I’m good at math, but I don’t like it very much,” she said, “I want to study psychology or education. I like to interact with people and want to be up working and doing, not sitting behind a desk.” Nalatee would like to work in counseling, school administration, or as a school psychologist so she can continue to work with kids.
 
It’s hard to imagine Natalee slowing down once she gets to Brandeis. The university has over a dozen dance clubs. She intends to join a diversity club and one of the many community service clubs so she can continue to work with people from elementary school to senior citizens.
 
So we’ll end as we began. Rosa Rivera raised an amazing daughter, and the world is fortunate that she did.
 

sheila serraro

Given that Citizens Who Care recognizes Andover’s unsung heroes, it’s not surprising that our honorees are a humble lot. “Why me?” is often the first response we hear.
 
That was true for honoree, Sheila Serrao, who says that all she does is “thankless tasks.” But in this roomful of people who care and contribute their time, we know how critically important it is that those “thankless tasks” get done.
 
The list of organizations that benefit from Sheila’s work is long: Bancroft Elementary, Andover High, Brooks, Esperanza Academy, Colleen Ritzer, Lazarus House, Girl Scouts, Bellesini Academy, Junior League of Boston, Women Ade, Cape Cod Baseball, and last but not least St. Augustine’s Parish.
 
When asked how she came to support so many worthy causes, Sheila says simply, “because someone asked.”
 
Sheila was a member of the Junior League of Boston before she and her husband Greg moved to Andover 12 years ago.
 
She calls herself a “perpetual volunteer” with the PTOs of all four of her children’s schools. She was a “room mother forever,” organizing the annual Father-Daughter Dance, progressive dinners, wine tastings, Cultural Arts programs, and the Bancroft Elementary School graduation which Sheila says is probably bigger than Andover High School. At Brooks School, where her daughter is a sophomore, Sheila organizes the teacher luncheon, helps with admissions, and prepares for parents’ weekend.
 
Sheila was a Girl Scout leader for 8 years, leading her daughter Annie’s troop. Although the troop has long since disbanded, Sheila continues to provide leadership. When the troop was together in middle school, the girls took their cookie money to purchase, wrap, and deliver Christmas gifts to Lazarus House’s Project Bethlehem, a project the girls continue to do today. The girls still get together to help hang pink ribbons along the  route of the Step Up for Colleen 5K race. (And then her son, a senior at Andover High, takes them all down.)
 
Four years ago, one of the founders of the Esperanza Academy invited Sheila and Greg on a tour. Someone asked if they would like to sponsor a student, so they agreed. The student will graduate this year, and they’re ready to sign up to sponsor another student.
 
Another way Sheila is involved with Esperanza is through a new volunteer venture with Woman Ade. Although Boston-based, the organization gives grants the benefit children and women throughout the area, including Esperanza.
 
At the heart of Sheila’s volunteering is her Catholic upbringing. She teaches CCD at St. Augustine’s and serves as a Eucharistic Minister for home bound parishioners.
 
Also in line with her faith is a new adventure: serving on the board of the Bellesini Academy. Why? Because someone asked. A co-ed middle school, Bellesini Academy gives students the support and resources they need, following them through high school and college.
 
When asked why she volunteers, Sheila says that she was raised that way. So on behalf of all the organizations the benefit from Sheila’s work, we say “thank you” for taking on all those “thankless tasks.” They wouldn’t get done without you.
 

ted teichert

Andover means so much to Ted Teichert that, as he says, if you cut him he’ll bleed Andover Blue and Gold.
 
Ted’s family has deep roots in Andover. In the 1920s and 30s, Ted’s grandfather was a painter who worked for William Wood painting houses in Shawsheen Village. He also owned the Cold Spring Ale brewery in Lawrence.
 
In the 1950sTed’s father opened the first of two Main Street businesses that would shape Ted’s future service to the Town of Andover. Andover Stationers came first and stayed the longest, then came the sporting goods story (Sparky’s?). The Teichert family businesses supplied gym uniforms, t-shirts, and sweatshirts to Andover schools and Phillips Academy. Ted grew up in the family businesses, managing the store until the family sold it in the 1990s.
 
Of all the many ways Ted has served the Town of Andover – and there have been many – it’s downtown Andover that inspires much of his volunteer work. Over the years, Ted has been involved with the Andover Chamber, Andover Business Community Association, Bazaar Days, and Andover Day.
 
“Downtown Andover is the classic New England Main Street that we just don’t see much anymore. And that’s worth preserving,” Ted says. Ted’s goal is to have a thriving Main Street where people want to congregate.
 
That inspires Ted’s work to keep Andover Day going. Along with fellow Citizens Who Care honorees Phyllis Riordan and Kathleen Bates and former Andover Rotarian Holly Nahabedian, Ted revitalize the former Bazaar Days into an event that attracts thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Andover with live music, a community stage, vendors, tents, food court, and rides for the kids.
 
In addition to his dedication to the vibrancy of Main Street, Ted has been involved with Andover Junior Football League as coach and board member since 1980. He has also coached Little League Baseball.
 
It was a natural progression, Ted said, to run for Selectman to continue to take care of the town that means so much to him. Ted served as Selectman from 2000 to 2012 and later served a term on the Andover School Board.
 

Klara vadja

“Having fun is not just sitting and putting my feet up. It’s doing something.” Honoree Klara Vadja does not just sit and put her feet up. For 36 years she has been volunteering in and around the Andover community.
 
Born in Hungary during the communist era, Klara Vadja’s parents were her role models. “In the middle of misery,” Klara said, “my parents found the time, energy, and motivation to help others.” When she was a child, her family was deported from their home in Budapest. Someone showed up at their home in the night and told them to pack up, “You have to go,” They found themselves in a dusty farm town with many other deported families. It was a hard life, so bad that some people committed suicide. Klara’s parents did what they could to keep up the spirits of the people around them. Her parents served as inspiration for a lifetime of service.
 
Because of her Catholic upbringing Klara always had a connection with her church and with people. When she arrived in Andover, after moving between countries and around the U.S., Klara joined Andover’s St. Augustine Parish. Her English was poor, so she volunteered for the Hospitality Ministry where all she had to say was “hello.” She continues to serve the Hospitality Ministry today, greeting parishioners, helping with seating. She also serves in the Senior Ministry for home bound elders.
 
In 1994, after she and her husband separated, Klara joined a support group for divorced and separated people. Six months later, she decided to start her own group. She has led the Divorced and Separated Support Group at St. Augustine ever since.
 
Klara is also a member of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, organizing services for poor and low-income people in Andover. “The poor population of Andover is hidden,” Klara says. The Society of St. Vincent DePaul collections food donations on a weekly basis, distributing food to Neighbors in Need in Andover, and St. Mary’s and Bread & Roses in Lawrence.
 
In 2004, Klara joined the staff of St. Augustine Parish overseeing all the ministers of the church which has over 3,200 members.
 
Proving that she is not one to sit with her feet up, when Klara’s last child finished college, she went back to school at North Essex Community College to earn her Associate’s Degree in Family Law. It’s her second degree. Her first Systems Analyst degree was earned in Hungary.
 
Since she retired from St. Augustine Parish last year at the age of 75, Klara joined the CASA program at Family Service in Lawrence and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate serving children in need.
 
A single mother and grandmother for 25 years, Klara passed her passion for volunteering on to her children. “It’s the best investment,” she says.