The spirit of volunteerism was on prominent display at the Rye City Lions Club Charter Dinner, held Nov. 14 at Whitby Castle. Guests were there to honor the 2023 recipient of the James A. and Marian M. Shea Community Service Award, Nancy Haneman, who has thrown her heart into so many organizations and causes.
Guests were also there to raise a glass to the Lions Club for its 96 years of service to Rye. The number of remarkable current and past members — deep in conversation around the room, listed in the program — was cause for celebration. Many will tell you they joined for the fellowship and the lunch meetings and stayed to help their less fortunate neighbors and make Rye a better place to live and work.
Many messages from longtime members of the Nancy Haneman “fan club” were shared that evening.
Barbara Brunner wrote: “As a young mother and for many years beyond, I enjoyed reading about events in Rye and frequently would see Nancy’s name. I was always curious who Nancy Haneman was. We may well have been at some events at the same time, but I simply didn’t know her, and we hadn’t been introduced.
“Fast forward to 2010, when a new organization called SPRYE was in formation.
There again, the name Nancy Haneman was prominent. Marian Shea was also an important member of this group. They were both involved from the very beginning.
“There eventually was a call for volunteers to meet. I read the address in the newspaper, arrived at the meeting, and guess what – I found myself in the living room of Nancy Haneman. Finally, we meet!
“Nancy became the second board president of SPRYE. During the latter part of her term, she invited me to lunch, which I thought was such a lovely gesture. Well into the lunch, Nancy sharpened her recruiting skills and went full speed ahead seeking her successor. Yes, I was totally surprised. I did not respond for a couple of weeks, but I did ultimately succeed her. I can tell you it is not easy to follow Nancy Haneman.
“Fair warning: If Nancy invites you to lunch, be prepared to become a volunteer in one of her many activities. She simply wants you to share her amazing experiences.
“It goes without saying, lasting friendships develop through our volunteer associations. This has definitely proven to be the case for Nancy and me.”
Rye Y former Executive Director Gregg Howells, who likely worked with Nancy the longest, wrote: “There is no one more deserving of a community service award than Nancy Haneman, who has made an impact on so many organizations — the Rye YMCA, Rye City Schools parent organizations, First Night Rye, Christ’s Church, and, most recently, SPRYE.
“Nancy was president of the Y’s board of directors when I was hired as Executive Director in 1996. She introduced me to the community and provided great support as I settled into my new role.
“At that time, the Y was embarking on a major expansion project to double the size of the facility. Nancy was at the helm for all the preliminary work, including the feasibility studies. She rallied the board; secured community support and city approvals; created the internal infrastructure needed to run a successful capital campaign; and ensured we had a strong construction team in place.
“When the expansion was completed in 2003, it gave our members and our community more programs and services than ever before. A project of that size and scope doesn’t happen without strong and effective board leadership. Nancy provided that from the beginning. In 1997, the Rye Y recognized her dedication and hard work with its Gold Spirit Award, the organization’s highest honor for volunteer service.
“Once Nancy’s term on the board of directors ended, she stayed involved by becoming a member of the Y’s board of trustees and served for many years. She remains actively involved in the selection of the Woof Haneman Scholarship Award for college-bound high school seniors, which was created in memory of her late husband and is administered by the Y.
“Having worked with Nancy all those years, I can say that her leadership success is the result of three qualities: She is on top of every task, very detail-oriented, and motivates others.”