Jaffrey Chamber names Citizen, Nonprofit, Business of the Year

  • Jaffrey Chamber Citizen of the Year Bernie Hampsey of Jaffrey stands outside the Jaffrey Civic Center, where is serves as president of the board. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Country Bridals store manager Elicia Bonham and owner Cathy Furze were honored with the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year award for 2020. Courtesy photo

  • Cathy Furze of Country Bridals sanitizes a dress after a bridal appointment. Courtesy photo—

  • Bernie Hampsey, right, with son Kevin Hampsey in downtown Jaffrey this fall, as Kevin received a “Good Neighbor” award from the NH Association of Realtors. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/13/2021 7:27:24 PM

Longtime lawyer, superior court judge and avid civic volunteer Bernie Hampsey has been named the Jaffrey Citizen of the Year by the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce.

Each year, the Chamber chooses from a list of community-submitted nominees for Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year. In addition to Hampsey, this year’s Business of the Year is Country Bridals and Formal Wear, and the Nonprofit of the Year is the John Humiston American Legion Post 11.

All three nominees are scheduled to be honored in a pre-taped ceremony which will be aired at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, which is to be held virtually this year on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. The previous year’s winners for their categories will present this year’s awardees with a plaque and an inscribed bowl.

Cyndy Burgess, chair of the Chamber’s Annual Awards Committee, said Hampsey received several nominations this year. Not only does he have a long history of civic service, he is still currently active on multiple boards, including the Jaffrey Civic Center, the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy and the Cathedral of the Pines.

“This guy has been pretty instrumental in the good things that are happening and have happened in Jaffrey. He has spent basically his whole life making Jaffrey a better place to live,” Burgess said.

“It shines a pleasant light on the end of 2020,” Hampsey said. “It’s nice to have the year end on something that’s bright and encouraging. It’s a delightful surprise.”

Hampsey moved to Jaffrey in 1961, when he married his wife and Jaffrey native Jean Letourneau. He worked for many years in town as a lawyer, and also as a district and superior court judge, until his retirement at 70 years of age. He’s always been active in volunteerism.

“I believe in the idea – I got this from my brother – that we all won the lottery. By happenstance, I was born a citizen in this country, and in a situation where I know where my next meal is coming from,” Hampsey said. “I believe that to who much has been given, much is expected, and that I should give back as long as I have the strength and interest, and as long as that strength and interest is wanted. That’s what I’ve done.”

The Business of the Year this year is Country Bridals, located on Main Street in Jaffrey. Burgess said the staff of the shop and owner Cathy Furze not only maintained the long-time business’ professional standards in some of the most trying business environment of our lifetime, but also contributed to the community, producing and donating hundreds of cloth face masks.

“What Cathy and her staff are known for is listening to their clients, hearing what their hopes and dreams are and then going to work to make sure they come true,” Burgess said. “We all felt certainly Country Bridals was deserving of this year’s award.”

Furze said the bridal industry has been hit brutally by delayed weddings, and she anticipated 2021 being another “year of challenge” for couples looking for venues and bridal fittings which are filling up with people who put off 2020 weddings.

Furze said during the initial business shut down in the spring, her two granddaughters, who work at the shop, were taught some sewing skills and got to work producing masks for the community. Together, shop staff produced more than 700, which were donated around the community. She said during that time, she tried to keep constant contact with the brides who were suddenly facing hard decisions about their weddings.

“I forwarded all the calls to my cell phone, and kept in constant contact with my brides and bridal parties. We met them for curbside pickup, or would ship dresses to them, or go on a virtual Facetime call to show them inventory details and they could place gown orders,” Furze said.

Now, the shop is open by appointment only, and Furze said she can only see about half the appointments she would usually have, because she and her staff sanitize and clean both the dresses and the fitting rooms and reception after each appointment, which takes an extra half hour.

“We want the next bride to feel as safe as the first bride of the day,” Furze said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff as safe as humanly possible, as well as our customers.”

She said those extra challenges make this award all the sweeter.

“We’re going on 19 years in business, to get this award now, to me, I’m over the moon,” Furze said. “It’s something that really gives you that extra burst of adrenaline to say, ‘We can get through this.’ It’s a boost I think that everyone needs right now.”

For the Nonprofit of the Year, Burgess said the Chamber wanted to recognize Post 11 for its long history of service work in the community.

Denise Barlow, office and bar manager for the American Legion, said many people are only aware of the bar portion of the business, and aren’t aware of the amount of activism that the American Legion participates in, including supporting many other area nonprofits and children’s programs.

“For us, our number one priority is the veterans, and second is our children,” Barlow said.

This year, many of the American Legion’s fundraisers had to shift gears, but they still made efforts to support the community, Barlow said. The Legion hosted a drive through spaghetti dinner for the local Boy Scout Troop, and a drive through holiday luncheon for seniors.

“Like a lot of other people, we had to think of other avenues to help. We tried to stay on top of things and be a positive influence,” Barlow said. “We’re lucky to have a lot of volunteers that stepped up to the plate. It’s been a trying year for a lot of us, especially nonprofits.”

Like Furze, Barlow said to be recognized in 2020, when a lot of businesses and nonprofits were struggling, means more.

“It means more this year than any other year for people to see and recognize what we do. I know there’s a lot of people that do know that, but there are a lot of stereotypes out there, and a lot of people that think we’re just a bar or a place to drink. It’s a great feeling and we have a great team, so we’re very lucky,” Barlow said.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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