Allyson Casares, center, is surprised by a waiting crowd at Martindale Country Club as she walks into the banquet room Thursday night where she was named Auburn Citizen of the Year. Flanking her are her children and husband, from left, Andrew, Peter and Olivia. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Design a model citizen and you might well come up with somebody like Allyson Casares.
“There’s so much love for Ally,” said Jennifer Malloy, co-founder of The Brand Collective.
Little more than a decade after she moved to the city, the Auburn Business Association named Casares its 2018 Citizen of the Year during a ceremony at Martindale Country Club on Thursday
Casares is somewhere close to the beating heart of her adopted community.
Friends piled on the adjectives to describe her: peaceful, enthusiastic, open-hearted, incredible, calm, warm, gentle, funny, smart and on and on.
Mayor Jason Levesque said Casares may be the first person in the 45-year history of the award “to be from away.”
For him, she is “the life savior of the year” because she taught his daughter to ski.
For Kathy Martin, the new curriculum director of RSU 4, Casares is “a silent hero” who serves as an education aide at the primary school in Sabattus.
For Realtor Marnie DuBois, Casares is the sort of solid friend who shows up at the door with a much-needed banana cake.
She volunteers. She teaches. She tutors. She’s active at Temple Shalom, serves on the board of the Lewiston-Auburn Children’s Foundation and coordinated the Kids’ Zone at the Dempsey Challenge.
But as the program for the ceremony lays out, it’s not so much any particular activity that earned her the honor. It’s that she embodies so much that has earned the admiration of others.
“Allyson’s signature is most recognizable in her devotion to her family and friends,” the program noted. “Through countless school events, fundraising races and life passages, her presence has touched all with her indomitable commitment and quiet grace.”
“Work hard and be nice” is a touchstone for Casares, friends said.
After listening to their words, Casares said she felt “truly humbled” at the recognition.
“I just feel like I’m doing my part in the community,” she said. “I’m truly, truly grateful.”
Casares grew up in Bangor and moved to Auburn from the Midwest after her husband, Peter, fulfilled a promise to get her home to Maine by snagging a job as the swim coach for Bates College.
She was born in New Jersey, moving north with her family as a youngster when her father set up a dental practice in Bangor. She earned a degree from Gettysburg College in education and psychology.
After she got married, she lived in Ohio and Indiana, where she added a master’s degree in language and literacy from Purdue University.
She said she was grateful when her husband “brought me home” to the Pine Tree State, where she said she is happy raising her two children, Andrew and Olivia, who both sang to her and offered glowing reviews of their mother. Andrew vowed to take care of her when she’s old someday the way she’s taken care of him.
Malloy said her friend will have a lasting impact on Auburn because of her passion for education and the community’s children.
“She works to empower, educate and support children,” Malloy said. “Auburn is undeniably better with Allyson in it.”