2023 Citizens Who Care Honorees
The Rotary Club of Andover thanks Mark Spencer for donating the photography for Citizens Who Care and Educator & Student of the Year.  
Ronnie Abraham
Ronnie’s story is not simply the 51-year history of Elm Street Auto. Rather, it has everything to do with Ronnie’s history of helping the community. Family, friends and strangers all have a Ronnie story, and that story begins with hearing Ronnie say, “I’ll take care of it.”

Ronnie has been around cars all his life. After Lawrence High School, he graduated from Lowell Tech (now U. Mass Lowell), bringing his engineering degree to solving car problems.

After four years in the engineering field, a change in the market and his lingering love of cars drew Ronnie to purchase Elm Street Auto – the one on Elm Street – in 1972. He met wife Cyndi soon after, when karma brought Cyndi and her mom to become loyal customers.
1986 presented another opportunity when Ronnie’s lease wasn’t renewed at the Elm Street property and he was able to purchase and settle in at Lupine Road, where he’s been ever since.
Ronnie has credited Cyndi with being the “social part” of the business, but Cyndi is also known to accompany Ronnie at night when he receives emergency calls. And speaking of calls, Ronnie’s phone is NEVER off! Between the phone, Police Department scanners and friends dropping by the shop, the community knows Ronnie is always ready to help, something he hopes will never change.

Classic car lovers also know that Elm Street Automotive is the best place to talk cars. Ronnie has restored more classic cars than he can remember. And Ronnie has worked with practically every department in the Town Offices. In 2017 Andover Firefighters Local 1658 honored Ronnie with his own fire helmet for “outstanding work and commitment to the Town of Andover and the Andover firefighters.”  He’s provided vehicles to public safety agencies to use for training and for many town parades and car shows.
An Andover resident since 1990, Ronnie is active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors at the Andover Federal Credit Union and as a volunteer for the Andover Conservation Commission as the Roger’s Dell Overseer. Over the years, the repair business has changed. No longer can Ronnie lift up the hood of the car and diagnose the problem. Today, his computer talks to the customer’s computer. Repairs are more of a challenge and parts can be expensive. Even towing has changed for cars with the now-common all-wheel drive.
But Ronnie wouldn’t change a thing. For Ronnie, “what I am and who I am is helping people.”

Larry Ardito

Larry has fond memories growing up with his mom and dad as important role models. He remembers the joy his dad got out of giving to others from his garden and the big smile his dad would always have when helping out where he could.
Larry’s mom and dad worked in the Lawrence mills, but one year they were laid off, and Larry decided he would work in an area where being laid off wasn’t so much of a worry. This led to a work ethic that has remained strong but also one that allowed him to put into action his parents’ lessons of the importance of community giving.
Larry was born in Lawrence and grew up in North Andover. He received a degree in Accounting from Lowell Tech (U. Mass. Lowell).
In 1979 with Uncle George Toscano, Sr., Larry formed the first “Toscano & Ardito” CPA firm. Today, Larry is President and owner of Ardito, Toscano & McCollum in North Andover and has guided this company to being the 47th largest CPA firm in Massachusetts. In 2000 Larry was named Accounting Advocate of the year for the State of Massachusetts. His extensive service has led him to helping others in many areas of focus.
Larry’s work as Caritas Holy Family Hospital’s Foundation Chair provided grants to hospitals that made possible the purchase of specialized equipment. Since the 1980s, he has done important work on the Board of Directors of the Merrimack Valley American Cancer Society.
His charity work expanded as the Treasurer and President of the Merrimack Valley Chapter of UNICA (Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity and Opportunity), a civic organization devoted to preserving Italian heritage. This group makes annual donations to deserving organizations including Lazarus House, St. Ann’s Home, and Ironstone Farm.

An interest in preserving the environment led Larry to become Treasurer of AVIS, founded in 1894 and committed to acquiring open spaces for public recreational use.

Another important effort is shared by both Larry and wife, Linda, and comes with work promoting the importance of education through scholarships. Not only does UNICO award scholarships to graduating high school seniors of Italian heritage, but the duo have provided many student scholarships to U. Mass. Lowell and North Andover High School.

Larry admits that he’s “happy to get up in the morning and go to work.” And through his many contributions, Larry has expanded his joy of service to helping others throughout the community. His mom and dad would be proud.


Luke Bardetti, Student of the Year

Luke admits that his motivation and ability to help others is due in large part to the support of his parents. Coming out of the worst of COVID, Luke saw that there were a lot of students who needed help. Connecting with the high school’s Students to Students program, Luke saw this as an opportunity to use his skills and to help students transition back to school.
Run by social worker Abby Levin, Students to Students has operated at the high school since 2013. Under her direction, seniors are trained as mentors connecting with students who are struggling to adjust to Andover High. The program focuses on incoming freshmen and transfer students. It includes an orientation and tours in August and meets regularly with the group during the first half of the school year. This year, student volunteers included 40 mentors helping 30 students.
Also at the high school, Luke is a member of the Senior Board of Directors that helps organize activities such as Senior fundraisers and other events. And sports play a big part in Luke’s life. In the Spring, Luke plays baseball; in the winter he competes in track and field. In the fall he is a part of the Unified Basketball team that helps Andover students with learning and developmental disabilities get active and out onto the court to enjoy their time.
Through sports, Luke continues helping others. To bring students together, as a seventh grader Luke began a 3-on-3 basketball league with his friends. Gradually, it became more formal and Luke reached more people through social media. Today the league has 12 teams and over 40 players. Friends made here are long-lasting – not all NBA candidates – but competitive nonetheless.
His coaches provided wise counseling and Luke recognizes baseball coaches Dan Grams and Joe Iarrobino, both who served as his mentor off and on the court, teaching him the important lesson of being a student first and ballplayer second.

This fall, Luke will attend Amherst College hoping to focus on biology. Luke has a strong interest in the environment, and volunteers with the AVIS ECO team that targets invasive plant species on Andover’s trails and reservations.

Asked to define his personal philosophy, Luke doesn’t hesitate to share his Senior quote: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
The Andover Rotary looks forward to watching Luke’s success as he reaches for the sky sharing his skills, energy, and kindness along the way.


Alex Bromberg

Look up the definition of “kindness” in the dictionary, and you just might see the name “Alex Bromberg.” “Kindness” is Alex’s focus; acts of kindness through collaboration is his goal.

Based in Andover, Alex is the founder of The Kindness Collaborative. The Collaborative’s prototype started during the early stages of COVID in 2020 with this initiative evolving from a Facebook group. At the time, it was meant to be a virtual meeting space focusing on helping people in the Andovers support each other through the pandemic. People posted their needs and others in the community with resources responded.
While Alex’s initial expectations were to get a few hundred followers, he was amazed that within a day or two they had over a thousand sign-ups, bringing together folks from across the region.

From serving the Andovers, the Facebook page grew to serving anyone in need throughout the Merrimack Valley. A large mask-sewing group of 35 came together. Boston hospitals were even contacting the group requesting face masks and surgical caps. But as needs changed, the resources and services being requested also changed, leading the group to focus on what they found was most critical at that time: community, unity, and kindness. 

Working with other people in the community, Alex led efforts to rebrand the group as ‘The Kindness Collaborative” and to officially become a registered charitable organization. It also became a full-time job with a following of over 7,000 people. Adopting the focus of “Kindness is What We Do Best,” the Collaborative grew to include five unique programs and a philosophy to focus on their efforts in the community from two equal perspectives: the “engagement side” (needs) and the “support side” (people who respond to those needs).

For Alex, ideas for community support are limitless and credits his wife Kashmir’s support essential to the success of this work. Along the way, a “donor-funded” expansion became a reality. Helping local charitable organizations with doing what they do best evolved to naming many of their partner organizations as official “Member Organizations” of the collaborative. These include Ruth’s House, the Merrimack Valley Dream Center, the Community Giving Tree and the Merrimack Valley YMCA.

Alex also offered partnerships to local municipalities, like North Andover, who offers the organization space alongside the town’s offices and other resources. The addition of commercial space is a current goal.
Alex offers a final thought: “We live by the philosophy that everyone can engage in kindness and everyone is worthy of receiving it.”


Paula Colby-Clements

For Paula, in life you always need to ask yourself, “What I am, who I am, and what do I want to be.” These questions have led her to focus on the areas of education, youth and veterans. And in each of these, Andover is a better place for her service.

Paula remembers in high school, saying that someday she wanted to serve on a school committee. She has been an attorney since 1997 – Massachusetts School of Law – and came to Andover to lay down roots in 2002.
Her first connection in Andover was through Andona where she worked her way up to “Head Clown” (President). Clown Town is not only Andover’s biggest fundraiser, but it has also become a Town tradition.
Paula is passionate about Andona’s grant program that supports the Andover schools. Through grants, Andona funds activities and materials that the school budget doesn’t cover, little things to big things. As President, a cherished memory was when the group was given special recognition by the School Committee, at which point she knew that “what we do does matter.”
For the town, Paula’s goal to serve on a School Committee was realized in 2010 where she served for two terms. Here she built strong support groups and committed to bettering the community through collaboration. When asked to head the West El Building Committee, Paula was “all in.” Her appointment to the Finance Committee necessitated leaving both the building committee and the Town Governance committee, a move where she felt the timing was right.

Back out in the community, Paula accepted a board position for Run for the Troops 5K – an easy decision as she comes from a military family. Volunteers and sponsors see their efforts as making a direct, important difference in veterans’ lives. Throughout her children’s time in the public schools, Paula has supported youth and AHS sports and the school’s Capstone project, where students commit to a year of research and presentation.
Paula’s work at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover combines all her focus groups. Once Director of Admissions, she currently serves as law professor and Advisor for the school’s veterans association, a chapter of the Student Veterans of America.

Paula recognizes that despite one’s political ideology (perceived or actual), when you serve your community, assumptions about one’s ideology go out the window “Andover is unique. Across all divides, people just want to come together and do what’s best for everyone. Through respectful collaboration, we land where we need to be.

Toni Hadad

What does Toni do when she wants to relax? She rides her horse! Since she was 10 Toni has loved being around horses – big ones…and, now, the miniature therapy horses that she has made her life.
From a young age, she knew she had a bond with horses. Toni grew up in Andover working at such places as Sid White’s Farm and Ironstone Farm, and even rode in local horse shows.

Though horses weren’t on her radar after college and when she married, she never forgot the lessons imparted by her mom and dad, both in the medical field, to give back to her community. That opportunity came when her workload changed and she brought her focus back to horses.
Her first rescue horse was Gunner, a 15-year-old quarter horse headed for slaughter. Gunner changed her life. Toni soon began to read stories about miniature horses and how they were used in therapy. She learned that the small horses are akin to humans with special needs. A recessive gene limits their growth and brings major health challenges, causing functional handicaps and chronic pain.
Undaunted, Toni soon brought two miniatures horses into her life and committed to caring for their health and well-being. With these horses, she visited five local facilities. Equine therapy was new in the area; news of her work spread and demand quickly grew.  That same year, in 2017, Living Spirits Miniature Therapy Horse was certified as a non-profit organization. In 2018 she began to network with other organizations – hospitals, schools, veterans groups and anywhere there was a therapeutic need.
In six years, Living Spirits grew to impact over 150 groups. These include “Just Say No to Bullying,” “Horse Powered Reading,” Lowell General Hospital, and Valor (partnering with local law enforcement). Toni takes no salary but accepts donations, sponsorships and grants for care costs such as rescue, rehab, cleaning and veterinarian fees.

For Toni: “I love horses. I love how they can change people’s lives. I have witnessed miracles where people who have never liked to touch animals will touch the horses, or where people who are non-verbal begin talking.”
Toni’s husband, James, acknowledges Toni’s reach and service that spans all through New England and beyond with her miniature horses and her mission. “Toni is the most selfless person I know.”

This selflessness shines through all of Toni’s work. Her compassion and dedication has made a significant difference in the lives of her 10 small horses and in the lives of her community.

Frank Kenneally

For Frank Kenneally, his job as the Merrimack Valley YMCA President and CEO is “the greatest” because it links his love of the “Y” with his love of the community in which he lives.
Beginning with Y summer camp as a young boy, the YMCA has been a part of Frank’s life “forever.” In school, he studied education and worked at the Y part time. He accepted a fulltime job with the Y in 1988, realizing that this was an area where he could do the most good.

Frank explained that there are three components to the Y: (1) promoting healthy living; (2) youth development; and (3) social responsibility. One area coming out of social responsibility is addressing the region’s food insecurities. The Y helps by offering meals to children in the Y’s childcare program and sending meals home. Frank has also promoted the Lawrence Y’s food pantry.
Daily meals are served at the pantry; on Thursdays groceries are available. The Methuen Y offers a mobile food market one Saturday a month in collaboration with The Greater Boston Food Bank. Each month, 10,000 pounds of food are distributed to 300 families through this program.
In 2021 the Y received a Massachusetts state grant to purchase two food trucks now organized with staff and volunteers. These trucks collect and distribute food to such places as the Robb Center in Andover. While “food insecurity” is Frank’s trusted responsibility, “youth services” is Frank’s passion. He traces this focus back to the mentors and support from his youth and his own “sense of duty” to pay it forward.
Frank feels supporting the Y’s childcare and summer camp programs is immeasurable. Campers build lasting relationships, and these relationships build communities. In camp, campers also gain an appreciation for the environment while learning life skills. Both Frank, and wife Amy who is also involved in youth work, share this focus.

Outside of the Y, Frank serves on many boards including the North Andover Scholarship Foundation Board, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce and The Epilepsy Foundation of New England.

Frank previously held leadership positions on the boards of The Greater Lawrence Kiwanis Club and the North Andover Youth Center Board.
Frank’s work with the Epilepsy Foundation is personal, inspired by his son who has epilepsy.

Bob MacDougall

Somehow, Bob has learned to navigate his love of history and writing with his commitment to youth, education, fitness, and service.

A seed was sewn when Bob was in elementary school and would go to his local library to read short biographies of historic characters. History came alive, and Bob wanted to share this experience with others.
Following came a 50-year career in Education, where Bob taught history and government at several schools in the area, including Central Catholic High School. In 1995, Bob was a top ten finalist for “Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.”
Noticing that most history texts were either “too simple” or “too weighty,” Bob set out to bring to his students a better understanding and enjoyment of their country and its people. He began to write, starting with “The Agitator and the Politician,” a story of William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln and The Emancipation of the Slaves. Four more books have followed.
On the fitness side, when Bob’s dreams of becoming a major league baseball player didn’t pan out, he turned his love of the sport to teaching children how to play baseball. Bob took satisfaction in helping them get better and, importantly, “in seeing their own satisfaction in getting better.”
Ultimately, he found his greatest satisfaction in coaching running – where personal improvement is a major goal. He was the girls cross-country and track coach at Tewksbury Memorial High School for 26 years, earning many awards including the Boston Globe All Scholastic Coach of the Year in Cross Country. Bob’s commitment to community service and his connection to Greater Lawrence Kiwanis Club began at Central Catholic when school advisor Rene Roy invited Bob to a meeting. The Kiwanis motto of “Serving the Children of the World” caught his attention and in 2020-21 Bob served as the group’s President. One of the group’s major focuses is reading to the young children in the Lawrence Public Schools.

Working with Kiwanis, Bob has also been advisor to the Andover High Key Club and participated in many Kiwanis-sponsored charitable events including the Santa Night fundraiser, bike rodeo and the George Street Bridge, Andover, clean-up. As a member of Free Christian Church, Bob leads mission trips, including three trips to Juarez, Mexico where the church helps to support a home and school for impoverished children.

With Bob’s commitment to the youngest members of our community, it’s no wonder, when asked to share his personal philosophy, that he immediately responded, “Do what you can for the children, and then do more.”

Shari McLeod 

Through family and church, Shari grew up having a strong commitment to Community Service.

This commitment has often focused on the area of food insecurity. Shari worked as a Special Education teacher, volunteered at the Special Olympics and for a baseball team for athletes of all abilities. She has also worked at the Beverly School for the Deaf and at the Anderson School at the Professional Center in Andover.
The pantry concept came from husband Glen who, with son Cameron, brother-in-law Jay, local contractors The Andover Handyman and Sunnybank, LLC, built the shed that houses the refrigerators and pantries. As a new initiative, seed money for the building materials came from a grant awarded through the Trauma Intervention Program of the Merrimack Valley.
In the beginning of the pantry planning, Shari was told that when you start a self-sustaining drop-off/pick-up operation, it usually takes one year to reach people to let them know where it is and then to get them to regularly use it.
The Fridge and Pantry at Ballardvale United Church opened September 11, 2022. Shari saw a tremendous need within just one month. To help get the word out, Shari promoted the pantry through social media to build up a volunteer group where there is now a group of 50-75 volunteers who help weekly with shopping and stocking the fridge.
This is mostly funded through donations to the pantry fund and by a generous memorial donation that was given by a friend of the McLeod's. When the fridge is newly stocked, it often empties within 24 hours. Shari is now immersed in developing a new project called the “Village Food Hub,” a non-profit started with her husband to meet a need in the Merrimack Valley. Shari explained that a “hub” is an organization that “rescues” good food and helps to manage delivery of surplus food. This increases food availability to local direct service organizations. Community Pantry and Fridge at BVUC Team Hub

Donations can come from local restaurants, school cafeterias and stores. Large bags of staples will be broken down into smaller quantities for families and direct service organizations to allow for easier storage and usage. With plans to rent out spaces in the church, the hub will not be a storage facility, as usually food comes in and goes out within 48 hours.

Online, the Fridge and Pantry is described as a community resource that “reflects the best of giving from neighbor to neighbor.” The same can be said for Shari herself.

Gina Murray, Educator of the Year

Throughout her life, Gina has tried not to be too hard on herself because she has found that making mistakes is a great way to learn.
Combine this practical life lesson with her love of music and teaching and you begin to see how important she is to her school, her colleagues and her community.
Her passion for knowledge began in second grade with a teacher who provided hands-on experiences to practice what Gina and other students were learning. This teacher would become her mom’s best friend and an important mentor in Gina’s life.

Gina always knew she wanted to do something with music. Her mom was a teacher who thought Gina would be good at teaching. As Gina said, “it turned out I really enjoyed it.” Gina went on to earn a BS in Music Education from The College of Saint Rose in New York, and an MA in Music Education from Kent State.
When Gina’s children were young, her family settled in Andover. Here, she worked part time giving private lessons and contracting to private schools. When they were older, Gina applied for an open position at Wood Hill Middle School, where she has been since 2005. At Wood Hill, Gina is co-director of Wood Hill’s drama club. The group puts on a musical every year and produces a school-wide talent show. After school, she sponsors student groups that want to create music together with their friends or want to simply hang out.
Pre-COVID Gina managed Destination Imagination teams. In addition, she and husband Mike started a children’s choir at St. Augustine Church in 1997 and ran that program through 2005. At that time, they moved to St. Michael in North Andover and ran a teen/adult contemporary choir until 2020. Post-COVID, Gina and several colleagues realized there was a lingering feeling of isolation.
With their help and the support of Principal Patrick Bucco and Asst. Principal, Linda Croteau, Gina developed a Community Arts program implemented at the school this year. On half-days, teachers offer art electives, and students can choose three classes to participate in. With the classes being multi-level, students get to work with others that the normally would not.

Teaching is important to Gina as it allows her to help students become caring and responsible people while teaching creativity, communication and teamwork, while growing her own knowledge and creativity. And, perhaps what is most important, Gina’s teaching helps to give her students “the opportunity to create magic with music.

Emily Strong

There is a quote Emily loves from South Church’s third pastor, Justin Edwards, “Go see what good can be done, and do it.”
As a young mom, Emily took this philosophy to heart and called Neighbors In Need in 2010 to ask what she could do to help. She liked their model of working with farms to get fresh produce into local pantries while respecting the dignity of each guest. Emily joined the Neighbors in Need board in 2013.

Emily had previously worked in public health research studying nutrition in early childhood and the social and environmental factors that influence our health. She learned that having access to fresh vegetables can make a lifelong difference in a child’s well-being.

In 2014, the Giving Garden at Rolling Ridge idea took root, inspired by Pastor Dana Allen Walsh’s previous interfaith garden. A team of eight church volunteers worked to make the garden a reality. Emily envisioned making this garden a place “where parents could volunteer alongside their children and where kids of all ages would be welcomed to come and experience the power of volunteering.” Under Emily’s leadership and using the food pantry example, the group opened the garden the following year, leasing land from the Rolling Ridge Retreat & Conference Center in North Andover.
In order to help grow more food, Emily spent winters at farming conferences learning all she could about small-scale intensive vegetable production.
Last year, after seven years of volunteering for this effort, Emily was hired as Farm Manager, thanks to funding from the Stevens Foundation and other generous local family foundations. As the garden had not been sustainable on its own, these gifts helped to turn the garden into a better sustainable operation.

For Emily, the priority of the Giving Garden is for food pantry guests to receive food that is healthy, food that they want to receive, and food that they recognize and know how to cook. The garden only grows food that guests have requested and 90% of the harvest is donated. This comes out to nearly 10,000 pounds each year, an equivalent to 45,000 servings.

A greenhouse was recently built to begin growing plants during the winter. Distributions have gone to organizations such as Lazarus House Ministries and the Peoples Pantry, a volunteer-run food pantry serving the Merrimack Valley.
For Emily, the Giving Garden is all about “Growing with Love,” and Emily’s efforts are growing more every day, working collaboratively with others and bringing food to those in need.

Mike & Sue Wartman

Sue and Mike Wartman are clearly each other’s cheerleaders. This mutual support could well beat the core of their ability to help so many people across communities and age groups.

In Newburyport, Sue trained in Hospice care and was the Director at the Women’s Crisis Center in that town. Sue has volunteered for TIP (Trauma Intervention Program) of the Merrimack Valley, providing “emotional first aid” as well as direct care to the victims of trauma and disasters.

Sue also trained to become a court-appointed advocate for persons trying to navigate the court system. And Sue has served as an Academic Advisor at U. Mass. Lowell. Currently, Sue continud her community service through the love and comfort that her certified therapy dogs bring. With Django now retired, Sue takes Monty to the North Andover Library
and Belmont High School.

Her nominator, Rev. Al Timm, cites her tireless work as Trustee President of her neighborhood homeowner's association at Riverside Woods.

For Mike, his belief in the power of connection and service has been at the core of his work. These values were reinforced by the example of his parents, his mother a lifelong volunteer and his father a physician.

Entering the field of counseling and mental health solidified Mike’s path of service. He has approached all of his work with the philosophy that “when you serve others, you grow in all sorts of ways.” Mike came to Andover to work in The Peer Counseling Program at Andover High, at the time, a government funded program. The goal was to teach students about human relationships and communication skills. Discussion focused on topics such as peer pressure, loneliness, depression and making connections.

Students were also encouraged to serve others. The work of students serving the community is very evident in today’s high school.

Mike spent many seasons coaching both soccer and tennis at Andover High. He just retired as the Boy’s Tennis Coach after 37 seasons. He volunteers with AVIS as a warden for The Deer Jump Reservation.