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United Way recognizes Gordon Hazel for service

KEESEVILLE - The United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc. has named Gordon J. Hazel the recipient of this year's Dorothy and Alan Booth Distinguished Citizen Award.

The announcement was made at the organization's annual dinner at the Keeseville Elks Lodge March 7.

John C. Bernardi, executive director of the local United Way, said Hazel has been an excellent example of what the award recognizes, which is "volunteerism, community spirit, generosity, compassion and commitment." Hazel's most recent role as executive director of the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, from which he retired after 18 years, has meant a great deal to the two counties.

"Gordon has certainly dedicated a large part of his life to the health and human services field to which he gives so generously and so tirelessly," said Bernardi.

Hazel's son, Mark, accepted the award on his father's behalf, as both his father and mother, Kathleen, are out of town until the spring. After Gordon Hazel retired last September and his wife retired as executive director of the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County in December, the two have been spending their winter months in Myrtle Beach, S.C., their son explained.

"He really wished he could've been here," said Mark Hazel.

In a letter sent by Gordon Hazel thanking the organization for the recognition, the recipient stated he was "both honored and humbled" with the news. Mark Hazel read his father's letter, underscoring the emphasis his father placed on his gratitude to the people of the North Country.

"This award is extremely special to me ... I feel so blessed that I was able to do something that I loved and actually got paid to do it," Gordon Hazel wrote in his letter.

The opportunity gave him the insight of how an organization can reach so many people, he further stated, and helped him understand the importance of partnering organizations like the United Way.

"The United Way works, and, from my perspective, everyone should get involved in it," Mark Hazel read from his father's letter.

The Hazels anticipate returning to the area in May, but until that time, Mark Hazel said his father is especially enjoying the warm weather.

"He sends me text messages every morning. I got one today that said, 'Sunny. Clear. Beautiful. Tee time, 9:24. Life is great.'"

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