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United Way of Windham County executive director Carmen Derby and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital president and CEO Steve Gordon accepted the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce’s Member of the Year award.

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Chamber honors couple for their volunteer efforts

DeGray and Galanes recognized for community service in Brattleboro, from flowers to civic engagement

BRATTLEBORO—Visitors to Main Street can’t help but notice the wooden barrels filled with flowers, or the flower boxes that surround Pliny Park, or the sparkling white lights and wreaths during the holiday season.

Dick DeGray and Missy Galanes would have earned their Persons of the Year award from the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce just for their downtown beautification efforts. But that only scratches the surface of the many ways they’ve contributed to the community over the years.

In saluting the couple at the Chamber’s annual breakfast meeting on Jan. 23 at the Brattleboro Retreat, Chamber Executive Director Kate O’Connor said “they have a sincere love of Brattleboro that they demonstrate every day through their deeds and actions.”

O’Connor said the Main Street beautification efforts began modestly nearly a decade ago “with buckets, flowers, and solicited donations.” It has since become “one of the most highly prized programs of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance.”

DeGray and Galanes also plant flowers at the Creamery Bridge in West Brattleboro and put up lights there during the holidays.

Over the years, DeGray has served on the Selectboard and Finance Committee, while Galanes was the chief clothing buyer for the former Reformer Christmas Stocking, which provided winter clothing for children in need in the Brattleboro area for seven decades.

Both served on the Brattleboro Union High School Board and have been involved in other volunteer efforts, ranging from St. Brigid’s Kitchen on Walnut Street to the Harris Hill Ski Jump.

“It is truly an honor for Missy and me,” DeGray said of the award. “And what a partner I have — she has been a true role model for me.”

DeGray also stressed the need for people to get involved in the community and thanked those who offer their time and resources to make it better.

“You make me proud to be part of our community,” DeGray said.

Mitchell and Giddings honored

Recognized as the Chamber’s Entrepreneurs of the Year were Petey Mitchell and Jim Giddings, the owners of Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts, a downtown art gallery.

“Though Brattleboro is known as an arts town, our entrepreneurs realized early on that the town had few stand-alone galleries showcasing high-quality works of art,” said Chamber Secretary Gina Pattison in presenting the award.

In 2014, Mitchell and Giddings took a risk and opened a gallery in the basement of 180 Main St., long the home of A Candle in the Night. In its five years there, the gallery has shown more than 40 exhibits representing 30 artists and expanded their gallery space into the atrium of the Brooks House.

Over the last few months, Giddings and Mitchell achieved a long-held dream of moving the gallery into the upstairs storefront space, after Candle in the Night co-owners Donna and Larry Simons decided to retire and close the store.

Pattison said the building is now “full of artistic energy from top to bottom,” with First Proof Press moving into the basement space previously occupied by the gallery and the Brattleboro School of Dance moving into the other Main Street storefront space.

The InSight Photography Project is also sharing the space, having moved into the former Mocha Joe’s coffee roastery in the rear of the building about a year ago.

“We are so grateful to be able to be living in this town, working on an arts community that we dearly care about,” Mitchell said, “but it wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for all you guys caring about the arts and what creativity can offer all of us.”

Dental Center founders honored

For their work establishing the Windham County Dental Center, United Way of Windham County Executive Director Carmen Derby and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital President and CEO Steve Gordon accepted the award as the Chamber’s Members of the Year.

The partnership between BMH and the United Way created the practice last year. Its mission is to deliver affordable dental care to everyone in Windham County — in particular, patients for whom it is difficult to impossible to find a dentist that accepts Medicaid.

The hospital provides the office and a staff dentist, while United Way coordinates the volunteers who help run the practice. A $450,000 grant from the Thomas Thompson Trust has provided funding for the first three years of operation.

“Because of the center, all residents of Windham County now have access to high-quality oral care,” said Tracey John, president of the Chamber board. She said that a recent community health needs assessment estimates about 5,000 adults in Windham County do not regularly see a dentist.

To date, John said, the center has seen more than 600 patients, “and it’s making a difference.”

Derby said the staff and volunteers at the center work hard every day, especially with the patients who are dealing with the health issues that arise from not having had dental care for years.

Gordon thanked the BMH board of directors for making a financial commitment to get the center going and said that he is looking forward to the center’s continued growth, “especially with the new dentist who is coming on.”

Galanes family recognized

At the breakfast, the Galanes family was also recognized for having a continuous presence in downtown Brattleboro for 90 years.

Enterprises associated with the family range from a billiard and bowling parlor on Elliot Street, to a smoke shop and shoe store on Main Street, to Galanes Sporting Goods (located at the present site of The Works on Main Street), to the Galanes Vermont Shop that is currently run by Missy Galanes.

Several Chamber members were honored for their anniversaries, including Groundworks Collaborative with five years; the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, High 5 Adventure Learning Center and New England Youth Theatre with 20 years; Kitchen Sync and Windham Coach & Carriage with 25 years; burton Car Wash with 45 years; and Vernon Homes with 100 years.

O’Connor said that the Chamber ended 2019 in good shape, with nearly 400 members.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #546 (Wednesday, January 29, 2020). This story appeared on page A1.

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