Lyme Woman Wins Vital Communities Volunteer Award

Carola Lea

Carola Lea

White River Junction — Lyme resident Carola Lea was named the Vital Communities 2013 Volunteer of the Year at the organization’s open house Friday night.

The nonprofit regional planning organization honored Lea for her volunteer leadership in the Upper Valley, including for the Upper Valley Land Trust, Dartmouth College, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, CHaD and Vital Communities, where she served on the board of directors for six years, volunteered on several advisory committees, and assisted with the April “Flavors of the Valley” tasting expo for more years than anyone else.

Even Lea herself cannot recall how many years she has assisted with Flavors of the Valley. It’s been long enough, she said, “to see it grow from a handful of vendors to more than 30 local businesses that fill up the (space) at Hartford High School.”

The kind of networking Lea sees taking place at Flavors of the Valley — consumers interacting with businesses they may have never encountered before, and vendors getting to know other vendors — reflects the power of community that Lea said she taps into with the numerous volunteer efforts that she undertakes.

That may be why, one day after she was named Volunteer of the Year at Vital Communities, Lea, 69, said she hopes eventually to form a partnership between Vital Communities and the Friendship Family Program at Dartmouth, which pairs local families with new international students to help them adjust to college life in the United States.

Lea serves on the advisory board of the Friendship Family Program and has hosted five international students herself.

From where she sits, Lea said, the two organizations seem a perfect match for one another. “One of the great things about Vital Communities is the interactions they facilitate.”

Mary Margaret Sloan, executive director at Vital Communities, called Lea “a quiet hero” and a “tireless volunteer across the Upper Valley.”

“As we were deciding on the 2013 Volunteer of the Year, Carola quickly became our unanimous choice,” Sloan said in a news release.

Many of Lea’s charitable activities took place in her adopted hometown of Lyme, where she has been involved with the Lyme School Building Committee, the Lyme Habitat project, the Lyme Oral History Committee, and the Lyme Hill and Valley Conservation Association. Her current interests focus on local, healthy food and renewable energy, which led to her participation in Vital Communities’ Valley Food & Farm program and on the Lyme Energy Committee.

Lea has also sustained an interest in assisting international families and children, both here and abroad. She led the resettlement of a Laotian refugee family in Lyme and serves on the Board of Zienzele, a relief organization for HIV/AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe.

Diane Taylor can be reached at 603-727-3221 or