Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Person of the Year

We never had any doubt about the large number of people who offer their services to better Shelter Island and who help their neighbors.

But it was heartening to be reminded of that fact as we were again this year choosing our Person of the Year.

It didn’t take us long to put together a list of worthy candidates. We asked you, our readers, to nominate those who could meet the criteria of Person of the Year. With your poignant emails and phone calls, our readers were — as you always have been — the best judges of the character of individuals who populate our Island.

The people you put forward for our award all met the American author and anthropologist Margaret Mead’s prescription on how to make a positive difference: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Every person nominated for our award is a thoughtful and committed citizen. But our candidates were not interested in changing the world. Just making a difference on Shelter Island was more than enough for them.

However, it’s in the specific that you often find the universal. All the Islanders who were placed in nomination by friends, family, students or colleagues have made significant changes in people’s lives. They in turn have taken what they’ve learned and are carrying forward the ideals of commitment to community.

We heard of people like the teacher who went above and beyond to help a student become a better person, or the business owners who never stop giving back to the community, or the active citizen who influences town officials, or the senior to whom everyone looks for wisdom. The Island is loaded with residents who work tirelessly to make our town a better place.

Our candidates came from all walks of life and were all ages, thanks to you. And a heartier thank you must go to all who walk the extra mile to help others, who every day are unheralded persons of the year.

We live in a small place, but our hearts can match up with those living anywhere.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey, in his last speech, said the moral test of a society is “how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children, and those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly …”

Our Person of the Year, Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli, believes in — and proves by her actions — those truths.