MANCHESTER — Citizens Bank and Volunteer NH have named John Walker a "Good Citizen" for his outstanding commitment to the Laconia community. The Good Citizen Award honors people who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to volunteerism and, through their efforts, strengthen the communities where they live and work. As part of the award, a $250 donation is being made in Walker's honor to Got Lunch! Laconia.
"John is a true asset to the Laconia community," said Holly Hiltz-Harrington, Citizens Bank Laconia branch manager. "He embodies the spirit of volunteerism with his humble approach and ability to inspire action both inside his community and beyond. We are proud to work with Volunteer NH to showcase people like John and the tremendous work they do in our New Hampshire communities."
Walker, a retired airline pilot, was instrumental in the launch of Got Lunch! Laconia. In the spring of 2011, while participating in a community group, Walker learned that over half of the Laconia's students- nearly 67%, over 1,400 children - received free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. He questioned what these children did during the summer months, and sought a solution to ensure they received a nutritious meal. Partnering with Paula Gile, an associate minister at a local church, Walker launched Got Lunch! Laconia in April 2011 as a collaboration of community partners coming together to feed Laconia children during the summer months.
The impact of Got Lunch! has been significant from the start. In 2011, 314 children received a weekly delivery; by 2013, 570 children received lunch. Now, in the first three years, over 61,000 summer lunches have been distributed. It has cost about $10 per child per week for the program.
Today, the Got Lunch! Laconia program has inspired and trained 11 additional programs serving 18 towns.
"John has tremendous skill in making every volunteer feel like their contribution is significant," said Eliza Leadbeater, a community member. "His unassuming manner, and gift for developing partnerships, has been central to Got Lunch! Laconia's continued success."
Walker also donates his time to many other local causes, including Central NH VNA & Hospice, Laconia Area Community Land Trust, Laconia Kiwanis, Mentoring Together, and remains active in his church.
"John's compassion and initiative are unparalleled and inspiring," said Gretchen Berger-Wabuti, executive director at Volunteer NH. "We are pleased to be able to honor his service and contribute to the ongoing success of Got Lunch! Laconia."
Volunteer NH, a nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism and service in New Hampshire, sponsors and supports national service initiatives such as AmeriCorps. It also provides training, a volunteer matching service and volunteer-recognition programs.
The Good Citizen Award is part of Citizens Helping Citizens Strengthen Communities, the bank's program designed to contribute to the economic vitality of the communities it serves. The awards will be presented on a monthly basis through November 2014, when all of this year's Good Citizens will be honored at the Spirit of New Hampshire Awards ceremony.