Mary Seidner honored as Old Lyme's "Citizen of Year" for commitment to children, families
Mary Seidner, the director of the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau, said she enjoys that the agency is like "a family," with the board of directors, volunteers, youths, families, and staff all contributing to the community.
"The people I work with are all dedicated, loyal and really committed to their jobs, and it's a pleasure to come to work every day and work with them," said Seidner in an interview. "We're a real team."
The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen recently honored Seidner, who has served 11 years at LYSB, as the 2015 Citizen of the Year.
A proclamation, read aloud by First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder at last month’s annual town meeting, highlighted Seidner’s "impassioned commitment to our children and families."
Under Seidner, the LYSB has participated in the annual holiday giving program, engaged in a youth and police leadership program with the Old Lyme Police Department, started a Juvenile Review Board and founded the Community Action for Substance Free Youth (CASFY), which "has sent a strong substance free message since 2005,” among other initiatives.
"Programs for all ages and active service groups for middle and high school students have expanded under Mary's leadership," the Board of Selectmen’s proclamation states.
Seidner said LYSB provides a "safety net" for the communities of Lyme and Old Lyme.
LYSB offers programs for youths and families, including services for positive youth development, early childhood, prevention, and juvenile justice. It also offers mental health counseling on a sliding scale and assists the two towns with social services, as needed.
"The programs that we are bringing in here are helping parents become better parents, kids become better citizens and empowering youth for a better future," said Seidner.
Seidner said she started out as interim director of LYSB, after serving six years on its Board of Directors. The job became permanent, as it became clear that she really enjoyed the work and it was a good fit for her. Seidner also realized all the great things that the bureau could do.
One of her first initiatives was to start CASFY. She began the council, along with the former principal of Lyme-Old Lyme High School, to bring together all sectors of the community to prevent substance abuse among youths.
The coalition, which has data from student surveys that show that alcohol rates have decreased among teens in Lyme-Old Lyme since the first survey in 2006, has implemented various strategies, from hiring a prevention coordinator to installing messages on sanitation trucks to teaching students about the laws governing alcohol.
"Looking back over 11 years, it's amazing to see how far we've come," she said.
Old Lyme Police Officer Martin E. Lane said in an email interview that Seidner's greatest contribution is that she facilitates, encourages, and leads others to become engaged in the youth of Lyme and Old Lyme. She has been instrumental in applying for grants and advocating for funding for the youth and police group. She also led the process to determine which youths should be invited to join the group.
"Mary is one of the most dedicated persons I know, who spends countless hours advocating for the youth of our community," he said.
As the director of the non-profit agency, Seidner, who has a background in non-profit development and management, is in charge of all aspects of the business, from fundraising and grant writing to insurance of the buildings and payroll.
Seidner said the job is rewarding for her, whether it's witnessing the lives of youths touched by the programs or providing assistance to help families through difficult times.
Michelle Dean, the interim principal at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School, said she is impressed with Seidner and her overall dedication to Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.
"She, in cooperation with all youth service employees under her advisement, are a strong presence in our school community at all levels," Dean said by email. "From providing youth student grants to hold drug and alcohol free events, to chairing the Juvenile Review Board, to connecting families with counseling services, Mary's genuine commitment to the development of our students is evident!"
In accepting the award, Seidner joins other "citizens of the year" in Old Lyme, including Howard Lee Hammerly, who first received the award for "his very successful efforts in organizing and directing the Rogers Lake Teen-age Club."
The Board of Selectmen, comprised of First Selectman Merle Bugbee and Selectmen Maurice (Bud) McCarthy and Denton Butt, began the award in 1963-1964, according to the first selectwoman's office. The award was intended "to be given annually to some citizen of the town of Old Lyme in recognition of his or her outstanding contribution to the community."
She said volunteering is important to her and she likes solving problems for the community. She said she loves being part of the community, where she and her husband raised two daughters who are now young adults.
Seidner said she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, cooking and just admiring the view of the Four Mile River from her home and glancing out at a nearby osprey nest.
"I really do love Old Lyme," she said. "I love living here. I love working here. I feel we really live in a beautiful community, and I feel lucky to live here."