At a virtual event showcasing community excellence and success, ExcellenceNorth Alliance presented its inaugural Dr. Sylvio Dupuis Community Excellence Award to the community of Newport, New Hampshire.
Let me introduce you to Newport. Known as the Sunshine Town, it’s a community of 6,000 people nestled in the western part of New Hampshire. Newport thrived for many years. Like many other small towns, however, over the past 30-to-40 years Newport experienced a long, slow economic decline. So, three years ago, Newport native Jay Lucas and his wife, Karen Ballou, launched the Newport Sunshine Initiative (NSI), a grassroots effort to revitalize their town. NSI now involves more than 100 people creating and continuing momentum.
The intent of the Newport Sunshine Initiative is to energize and reinvigorate the positive spirit of the town. It’s not only designed to bring Newport up to par with other similar communities but to leap ahead five years beyond existing thinking and technology by innovating and using creative problem-solving.
A key to the Sunshine Initiative’s success is economic development. It helped attract new businesses, generating more than 75 new jobs. Working with Newport High School and its technical center, the town also developed a School to Work Program to build skills needed to equip graduates for good jobs in the area. In conjunction with Dean Kamen’s FIRST Program, NSI was also instrumental in launching a robotics program and a team for competing.
Supporting the arts is also a priority. The arts center of the historic Newport Library is hosting nearly 200 events this year. And the Newport Opera House, built in 1886, has recently completed more than a million-dollar renovation.
Two of the events that the Newport Sunshine Intiative is most proud of are the Newport Winter Carnival and the Sunflower Festival. Earlier this year, the town’s positive spirit led to the continuation of the Newport Winter Carnival, the longest continuous winter carnival in the nation, despite COVID-19 challenges. As another boost to the town’s positivity, as part of the Sunflower Festival, 2,000 packets of sunflower seeds were distributed and planted throughout Newport. Last fall, it won a Guinness World Record when 339 people simultaneously created flower bouquets.
The Dr. Sylvio Dupuis Community Excellence Award recognizes and raises awareness of communities in New Hampshire that, through ingenuity and innovation, are making improvements that benefit economic conditions, quality of life, education, and/or public health.
As the award intended, the Newport Sunshine Intiative has gained insights and developed best practices to share with other communities guided by Jay and Karen, and Sunshine initiatives are underway in Laconia, Rochester, and Manchester’s West Side. For the full story of the awards event, visit the news release. To learn more about the award and why it honors the spirit of Dr. Sylvio Dupuis, former Manchester Mayor, community leader, volunteer, philanthropist, and my friend and mentor, read my blog post earlier this year “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle.