AUBURN, Mass. – The Rev. John Gee, pastor of North American Martyrs Church in Auburn, is the newest recipient of the John E. and Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award.
The Riley Award Committee voted unanimously on Thursday for Gee, who has been a pastor in Auburn for 22 years, and serving in other parishes for a total of 59 years.
The award is given to an outstanding citizen who has made life for Auburn residents better.
“There are so few places to have events now, and so many nonprofits that are looking to raise funds, and North American Martyrs has the most fabulous kitchen,” said Selectmen Chair Doreen Goodrich, who is on the award committee. “And they don’t charge a fee when the nonprofits are having events. He’s all about community and has done so much for Auburn,” she said of Gee.
Other committee members to vote for Gee were Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury; Chet Stencel, a Town Meeting member chosen by the moderator; Doreen Guitarr, an educator named by the School Committee; Luke Thunberg, high school senior class officer; Douglas Geeze, president of the Auburn Ecumenical Cluster; and Ellie Oleson of the news media who covers Auburn news and a citizen of Auburn named by the Selectmen.
Gee was nominated by Ed and Eleanor Binnall, Robert and Carol Breault, and Patricia Bukoski.
“During his time in Auburn, the parish has grown considerably in size,” wrote the Binnalls in their nomination letter. “The church now sponsors many community and religious activities. On July 14, a new 30-unit housing project for low-income elder citizens was dedicated on the church property.
“In addition, through the efforts of Father Gee, a successful food service program was opened in the lower back of the church serving the Auburn community,” they added.
The award will be presented to Gee at Bethel Lutheran Church’s Ecumenical Service on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
The John E. and Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award was created in 1976 to honor the Rileys for their contribution to serving and making life for Auburn citizens better. John served as Auburn Town Clerk from 1922 to 1952 and Ethel served as an assistant for many years.
Money that had been donated is now held by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and interest earned is given to the recipient chosen each year. Last year, the Rev. Robert F. and Leona F. Fenby received the award.
There were four other nominees for the award. Their names won't be released to the public because they will be up for the award next year.