Lori Swan of Hartford. Submitted photo

HARTFORD — Community service is second nature to Lori Swan.

Once in need of help herself, Swan has paid it back and then some working as a volunteer for more than 20 years at the Hartford Food Bank and at the recently-closed Hartford Clothing Center. Her community recognized her service by naming her the Hartford 2021 Spirit of America Award winner.

A native of Franklin, located near Ellsworth, Swan’s volunteerism has led her to be elected as a selectperson in the town of Hartford, a position she’s filled for more than four years.

How did you get involved with the food pantry and what do you do? I received the food myself, so when they needed some help I volunteered to give back. I have been the treasurer the last few years, so I take any donated money and do extra shopping with it besides the food we get from USDA.

What is an average day like at the food pantry? We pre-do up bags of food so when the people start coming in we get to take time and talk and joke have a good time for two hours — that is how long we are open.

You also volunteered at the Hartford Clothing Center before it closed last year. What was that experience like at the center? Enjoyed it a lot getting to know the people who shopped in it. I always wanted my own shop. It was run by the Hartford women’s church group, which I joined, so we shared in the duties of running it. Then one by one they retired from it, so for the last 10 years I ran it by myself for them and the church.

How did the pandemic affect these services for food and clothing? The clothing center had to close for quite a few months and when it opened back up hardly anyone came. With the food bank we also saw a lower number of people, I think, because of the stimulus checks and extra food stamps. It was extra work for me — for once a month I went to Rumford to pick up USDA farmer’s food boxes, and I would deliver them right to their homes.

What’s been the most challenging part of volunteering? Never thought of it as challenging. Just always enjoyed helping people, as I had been helped through the years.

How has volunteering helped you? It has helped me come out of my shell. I have always been shy and an introvert. You can’t be that way volunteering.

What can people do to help the food bank? They can donate money, perishable food and non-perishable, and their time.

With all the divisiveness in politics and government these days, how are things at the Select Board level in a small town? It wasn’t easy during the pandemic, just like all the other towns. Plus we lost our clerk, so only had a deputy clerk. He did his best, but he was some glad when we rehired our clerk from five years ago. For the last seven months she has been working hard to get the office back in shape.

If you have any spare time, what do you like to do to relax? I like to read, do Facebook and, until the pandemic hit, I would go dancing every Friday night. I also like to do yard work, crafts and taking nature walks with my dog.


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