GARDINER — Albert and Elizabeth Conary try to walk the four-mile round trip from their home on Old Brunswick Road to downtown every day to support local businesses.

While stopping at the Water Street Cafe during a daily trek on Wednesday, the couple were greeted with more than the soup and sandwich they ordered.

Volunteers and workers for Heart & Soul, the community project to update the city’s comprehensive plan, surprised the Conarys with an award recognizing their contributions to Gardiner.

Elizabeth Conary, 77, said she and Albert, 78, walk to the downtown every day because they like walking. 

“We come to visit the ladies in the bank. We go in the stores. And then we go home,” she said. “That’s how we do it.”

Meg Carlson, project coordinator for Heart & Soul, said the Wednesday presentation served as a kick-off for the program’s Heart & Soulmate awards.

The group is accepting nominations for future award recipients. 

“It’s really just a good will effort, trying to spread positivity in the community,” Carlson said. “You can nominate pretty much anybody for almost anything. It can be a major effort someone put into a community project, or it could be a neighbor that mowed your lawn when your leg was broken.”

She said she hopes the awards will continue after the grant for the project ends in January.

Heart & Soul is a two-year, community planning project funded by a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation to help create an updated comprehensive plan for the city.

Carlson said she likes the idea of giving the awards out in businesses to create a “mini cash mob” of people supporting local businesses at the same time.

She said she’s impressed by the Conarys’ willingness to walk downtown in any weather and to always find money to spend at local stores.

“I think there’s some lessons to be had there,” Carlson said.

Nominations for awards can be sent to [email protected] or dropped off at the project’s headquarters at 289 Water St.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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