The Town Council honored Cape Elizabeth resident Elise Gordon-Libby Bridge with the 2021 Ralph T. Gould Award during the Monday, September 13, 2021 council meeting.
Chair Jamie Garvin shared the following sentiments during the meeting:
As we just reflected on the incredible life of Henry Adams, it is my great honor and privilege to recognize the contributions of another dedicated community member with the presentation of this year’s Ralph T. Gould Award for Citizenship to Elise Bridge.
The Gould Award was established in 1986 to honor the legacy of community service of its namesake, and to subsequently recognize those who provide community service in the same spirit as Ralph. As I looked back over the list of past recipients, it is inarguably a distinguished list of Cape citizens, including past elected officials, town staff, philanthropists, and names otherwise recognizable for their public and in some cases very visible contributions to our town. And without in any way taking away from those important acts and demonstrations of commitment to community, one thing that struck me when I thought to put Elise’s name forward to the rest of the council for consideration was the quiet and unassuming way that she has made her mark, perhaps outside of the spotlight but certainly not without notice for her impact.
It has become cliche to talk about how people have had to cope and adapt during these challenging last many months. The nexus of crises brought by the Covid pandemic, calls for greater social justice and economic equality, and the overall degradation of what had previously been considered societal norms, has pushed many of us into difficult and dark places at times — some more personally and profoundly than others, but all of us in some way or another. It is amidst that backdrop that Elise has shown her bright light in our corner of the world, through many small but absolutely immeasurable acts of kindness, at a time when that was something we all so desperately needed.
I’d like to highlight just a few of them now:
Elise has always been someone committed to the preservation of the natural beauty around us. In the past year, she took that to a new level when she took up a plaulking crusade to clean up our town — literally one step at a time. For those who might not be aware, plaulking — or picking up trash while walking — is an offshoot of the plogging movement that started as an environmentally conscious marathon training method. Months of work culminated in her pinnacle effort of covering 20 kilometers around town as part of a fundraising effort to raise awareness and money for the Alzheimer’s Association, during which she gathered 165+ gallons of trash! Truly amazing.
Elise’s efforts were so successful that she was also able to contribute to another cause, the grassroots organization Maine Needs, whose mission she and many other Capers are actively involved with. Maine Needs is powered by a growing collective of volunteers like Elise, with the aim of helping individuals and families in Maine meet their basic, material needs by providing donated clothing, hygiene products, household items, and more.
In a time when too often social media is the home of bitter rancor and divisiveness, Elise and other compassionate neighbors of ours are using it to spread random acts of kindness and bring attention to ways we can help one another. Whether recognizing front line workers in our
community with sweet treats of appreciation, or organizing both holiday and plain every day food drives, Elise and her fellow members of the Cape Kindness group are bringing joy to those around us.
On many a May Day, some of us have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one of Elise’s flower baskets. Unable to carry on that tradition in the spring, Elise instead brought the happiness of flowers to many passersby with her Gift of Gratitude Gardens, planted at each end of Old Ocean House Road and the intersections with Rt. 77.
Covid has had no greater impact than on those whose lives have been lost to this terrible pandemic, and the families and friends they left behind. Wanting to be sure that the tragically growing tally of those lost did not become an abstract number, Elise took up the cause started by her sister Kristina called the Floral Heart Project’s Day of Mourning for Covid-19. In March, the organization led the placement of floral heart displays at locations around the country — including seven here in Maine — where ceremonies were then held to offer a place to acknowledge grief, as well as offer comfort and hope, particularly for those who had been isolated and unable to gather together to mourn.
While these are all examples of true service to one’s community, the most incredible thing when it comes to Elise is they are just the beginning of a very long list. In fact, even just as I was sitting to write these remarks, I saw a post from Elise that she had been out on the Greenbelt volunteering her time and energy on Saturday — a national day of service — to help out with some much needed trail work.
Elise’s roots in our community run deep. She was born here, but grew up a little further up the coast in Damariscotta. As an adult, she returned to Cape to be close to her family, including her grandparents whose family had generational ties to the town’s long heritage of farming and fishing. Now raising her son Finn here with her husband Jim, Elise is truly making an impact that will not only be felt today, but for many years to come.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me and show your appreciation for the 2021 Ralph T. Gould Award for Citizenship honoree — Elise Bridge.
* The Ralph T. Gould Award, established in 1986, was named for the late Ralph Gould to recognize his community service and subsequently to recognize those who provide community service in the same spirit as Ralph Gould.
The above constitutes the written criteria for the award.