DERRY — They are the top citizen, business and nonprofit of the year.
Ralph Valentine was named the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and was honored for his community impact and service to others on Oct. 7, during the Chamber’s annual awards and dinner night held at LaBelle Derry.
In addition to Valentine, the Chamber also honored Business Cents in Londonderry as Business of the Year and for top nonprofit organization, Center for Life Management took the award for 2021.
The Chamber has been honoring top citizens since 1965. The first recipient was Grant Benson Jr. This is the third year the Chamber has awarded a nonprofit.
Business Cents got its start in Londonderry in 1998 and not only offers business support but also takes great pride in its support of the community, said owner Eric Palmer as he accepted the award.
“It started 23 years ago in a spare bedroom in my home,” Palmer said, giving accolades to his team for a successful business model.
“I’m most fortunate to be surrounded by great people inside and outside,” Palmer added.
In his remarks, Center for Life Management CEO/President Vic Topo said the organization is going strong after serving communities for more than 50 years and offering a big list of comprehensive support programs and services addressing mental health.
He also gave a big shout out to all the other nonprofit organizations and the work they do.
“Any one of the nonprofits in the Greater Derry community could actually be standing up here,” Topo said. “Nonprofits do awesome work and I’m privileged to be selected for what we do every single day.”
Topo said once the pandemic hit, CLM was ready to continue doing what it does best, despite challenges to assure a continuum of care for those in need.
He said the CLM leadership team was ready to face those challenges, and had several hundred people set up within three days of the governor’s executive order in March 2020 to provide video services or make phone calls to clients. Having the right technology and devices in place was also key.
“To help forge ahead despite the hard times,” Topo said. “It seemed like we were preparing for the pandemic years before it hit.”
For Valentine, it was a humbling honor to receive the award and he credited the volunteers in communities who truly do much hard work to help others.
Valentine has been a fixture in the local real estate community for more than 30 years, serving as managing broker at the Valentine Group but also being part of many nonprofit organizations and other community missions.
And volunteering is something the top citizen is proud of, urging others to do the same and get involved. He credited the town of Derry for its strength in volunteer numbers, saying the community has been good to him.
“The culture of volunteerism in Derry, to me, is underestimated in the state of New Hampshire,” Valentine said. “The town was good to my business all these years and it’s right to give back.”
Valentine said volunteering is a civic duty and a social responsibility if people have the means to do it. and there are many ways to get involved, he said.
Valentine left the crowd with words he hoped would generate inspiration.
“For those who can, a kind word to people you don’t know goes a long way,” he said. “Say something nice to somebody you don’t know. You’ll get a lot out of it.”
Valentine was also awarded the ceremonial top hat, given to the top citizen and presented by local historian T.J. Cullinane. Valentine and the other honorees will be celebrated as part of the upcoming Nutfield Holiday Parade in Derry on Saturday, Nov. 27.