WEST BRATTLEBORO -- The West Brattleboro Association named Ahmed and Kat Rashed this year's Community Leaders of the Year at the organization's holiday party Dec. 12.
The couple has run Rashed's Garden Center for 22 years along Route 9 in West Brattleboro.
Ahmed Rashed was very busy Saturday selling Christmas decorations with a winter storm blowing in and less than two weeks left before Christmas.
Rashed said he started selling Christmas trees for the Reformer Christmas Stocking 13 years ago and he says it was easy for him to move trees in and out while running his garden center. He gives 100 percent of the proceeds he raises with Christmas tree sales to the Christmas Stocking and in 2011 the couple raised $4,611 making their gift one of the largest business contributions each year.
The Rasheds received the third annual award from the West Brattleboro Association partly due to the special Christmas tree and pumpkin sales they do every year that raise money for local non-profit organizations.
"It's a good feeling. It's nice to be recognized," he said while taking a minute from selling Christmas decorations Saturday. "The original idea was to do something for the community and the stocking made sense. What I love the most about the Reformer Stocking is that with this type of charity work you can leave knowing that 100 percent is going somewhere. I love it when kids come here and they show me their jacket. You can't really put a price on that."
The proceeds from the pumpkin sales in the fall go to the Women's Freedom Center.
The West Brattleboro Association is a member association that is open to residents, property owners, business owners and employees of West Brattleboro.
At the holiday meeting last week association president Michael Bosworth talked about the busy year the group had. The West Brattleboro Association has been right in the middle of some of the biggest issues facing the town of Brattleboro, including traffic safety along Western Avenue, housing challenges following Tropical Storm Irene all along the Whetstone River in West Brattleboro, and the ongoing renovation of the West Brattleboro Fire House, which is part of Brattleboro's $14 million renovation project for the police and fire stations.
The West Brattleboro Association is trying to raise money to purchase welcome signs at both sides of the village and so far has raised more than $2,600 toward the goal of $3,700.
The association also continued its Neighborhoods Project in 2013.
West Brattleboro Association trustee Barbara Gentry said the initiative is supported with a Thompson Trust grant and the group works to bring more of the residents and business owners together.
Over the past year the initiative helped support the monthly free community meals at the West Brattleboro First Baptist Church as well as senior meals at Hayes Court.
"The goal of this project is to create closer connections between neighbors in West Brattleboro," Gentry said. "We hope to create a stronger sense of belonging and greater civic involvement."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.