Lou Bernieri, a four-year volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence (BGCL), was honored on Nov. 27 with the 2013 Jeannie Melucci Award. The recognition took place at the club’s annual Thanksgiving celebration, during which a traditional holiday dinner was served to more than 400 youth members.
“We’re very appreciative to Lou for his remarkable, and at times life-changing, impact on our kids,” said Markus Fischer, executive director of the BGCL. “He has opened up a new world of creative writing and arts to our youth members, and unlocked the potential of becoming a writer or poet for many of them.”
Bernieri, executive director of Andover Bread Loaf, collaborated with BGCL education staff members to create Slice of Bread Loaf, a writing, arts, and performance program for elementary school children that starts with a two-week summer workshop and continues every other week through much of the year. The Slice is staffed by trained high school writing leaders from the BGCL.
In addition, Bernieri helps the club’s high school members with college essays, and has enlisted other writing teachers and organizations that have added programming for all ages.
Bernieri said that he has gained more than he has given through his volunteer experience at BGCL.
“It has been my honor to be able to do this work,” he said. “I feel this is the most important award I’ve ever received, and I thank you.”
The award is named for the late Jeannie Melucci, a former staff member at BGCL whose tough love inspired countless children to extraordinary achievement. The award in her name is presented annually to a volunteer who goes above and beyond in service to the kids and club.
Also during the event, Fischer acknowledged two groups of long-time volunteers: the Exchange Club of Lawrence, which has cooked the food for the annual Thanksgiving celebration for approximately 40 years; and the student athletes of Triton Regional High School in Byfield, who have served the meal for an estimated 30 years.