NORWAY – With so many years of volunteering under her belt, Mary Ann Brown still recalls her first act of selflessness: stuffing “I like Ike” letters into envelopes in 1952 at the age of 10 to help elect Dwight D. Eisenhower as the country’s 34th president.

It wasn’t that she was steeped in politics at such a young age. She just wanted to help out. “My parents really wanted to get him elected,” she said Wednesday.

Brown, who lives in West Paris with her husband, Raymond, was recently named the 2006 recipient of the Community Service Award, bestowed every year by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce to individuals who contribute to the well-being of the region through volunteer work.

Scanning Brown’s resume can make one’s head spin, wondering how she finds time for all her volunteer work. She’s not quite sure how she does it, either. “Sometimes I wonder how I did it,” she said. “I never thought I was good at time management.”

But Brown does give much credit to a supportive family and supportive employers. Both understood how important volunteerism is to her, and both allowed her to take the time she needed to devote to her causes.

Brown is board president at Community Concepts Inc. in Paris, a volunteer and consultant for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a member of the Norway/Paris Kiwanis, a board member of Western Maine Health Care Corp., and a member of the Oxford Hills Athletic Boosters.

She also participates each year in Bowling for Kids, a fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Brown was nominated for the award by Lynn Hamper of Northeast Bank, where Brown retired from in 2003, and her daughter Debi Irons, who has described her mom as a “habitual volunteer.”

Brown disputes that characterization just slightly. “I think I said no’ once,” she said.

The award recipient is chosen each year by the chamber’s board of directors. Brown will be officially presented with the honor at the chamber’s annual meeting banquet on Jan. 20 at the Four Seasons Function Center in Paris. “I feel so honored. I didn’t expect it. Now, all I need to worry about is what I’m going to say that night,” she said.

Brown worked in banking for more than 36 years and retired from Northeast Bank as vice president of retail credit administration and security.

She credits her parents with instilling a sense of community service in her and her 12 siblings. “They were involved with politics, 4-H programs, church,” she said, “they were just people who set good examples for their children.”

When Brown’s daughters, Debi and Nancy, were in high school, she volunteered for booster programs and student exchange programs. When they graduated, she continued volunteer work for several different organizations. “It helped fill the empty nest,” she said.

She continues to volunteer because it gives her a sense of well-being and because of the friends she has made. “It just makes me feel good,” she said. “People who volunteer, I find, are very good people, nice people to be around, caring people. People who volunteer do make a difference.”

On top of it all, she and her husband make time to attend sports events and band concerts that their four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren are involved in. “I go to as many as I can,” she said.

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