WESTMINSTER -- Charles Albert Dickinson accomplished his life-long dream at a relatively early age. And now, nearly 120 years later, an award bearing his name has been given to an organization that shares the vision he once had.
In 1894, Dickinson founded Kurn Hattin Homes for Children as a place for young children to live and learn in a safe environment. The first-ever Charles Albert Dickinson Award was given Thursday to the president general of the National Society of New England Women. The award presented at Kurn Hattin's Holiday Visitors Day, which is Kurn Hattin's way of thanking and appreciating all its friends and donors.
Linda Brown Jones accepted the trophy from Kurn Hattin Co-Executive Director Connie Sanderson during a student concert in Higbie Auditorium that followed a free lunch for guests.
"On behalf of the more than 1,100 members of the National Society of New England Women, I am honored to accept this award," Jones said from a podium mounted on the stage. "New England Women has supported Kurn Hattin and its students for over 60 years and the school and its students are very dear to our hearts. Although this is but one example of our contributions, perhaps the extent of our commitment to the work here at Kurn Hattin can be demonstrated by this one fact -- the New England Women Endowment Fund that provides funding for Kurn Hattin's day-to-day operations currently holds more than $700,000."
The administration of Kurn Hattin wanted the first award named after its founder to go to an organization that has helped Dickinson's creation fulfill meet the goals he had for it. The NSNEW is a lineage-based charitable organization that brings together women who have at least one ancestor that hailed from New England.
The group tries to honor the ideals and principles of the women and men who settled in the Northeast region of the country.
Sanderson told the Reformer this was the first year the award was presented but it will definitely be an on-going tradition. Before presenting Jones with the award, she said Kurn Hattin wants to honor Dickinson's dream of "a haven for children in this town, on this hillside, where he grew up."
After enjoying their complimentary lunch, guests were treated to the student concert as the second part of the 2013 Holiday Visitors Day. Led by Music Director Lisa Bianconi, the school's jazz ensemble and choirs took turns performing an array of seasonal songs, as well as some classics such as "Any Way You Want It."
Before the music began, Kurn Hattin School Principal Scott Tabachnick acknowledged Bianconi as being one of a finalist for the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award.
Bianconi is one of 10 people in the country to have weeded out of an initial pool of 30,000. But despite Tabachnick's compliments, Bianconi said she owed her good fortune to everybody else in the auditorium.
"This is my Grammys," she said on stage. "Kurn Hattin is the Grammys. We all know this."
The Kurn Hattin Beginning Choir, filled with enthusiastic pint-sized singers, kept audience members smiling with their energetic and spontaneous dance moves.
Pianist Hugh Keelan got the guests to laugh with some light humor before his rendition of "Sleigh Ride" with the help of a few Kurn Hattin students. After the Kurn Hattin Select Choir's performance, a vocal trio sang "O Holy Night" before the entire student body and faculty lined the perimeter of the auditorium and led the audience in singing "Let There Be Peace On Earth."
The jazz ensemble topped off the concert with "Christmas Stew," "Angel Rock" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.