By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Scott Gaines admits his many hours of volunteering are not all about serving the community.
Gaines says he’s just not a guy who likes to sit around — he’d rather deliver meals to seniors, coach youth sports, set up events for the Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce, or encourage kids to read by giving them a chance to win a new bike as part of a Vergennes Rotary Club effort that he founded.
“I like to get stuff done,” Gaines said in an interview last week at Vergennes American Legion Post 14. “If there’s a project, and I have some kind of interest in it, I just like to get it done.”
Gaines, a 46-year-old Vergennes native who is a co-owner of Gaines Insurance Agency, was sitting in Post 14’s dining room because he had reluctantly agreed to accept the Vergennes organization’s annual Community Service Award.
Since 1995, Post 14 has each year at its annual birthday dinner recognized a Vergennes-area resident who has in Legion officials’ view gone above and beyond the call of duty in volunteering to help his or her fellow residents (see related story for complete list of winners).
Gaines — who is the longtime Vergennes chamber president and a former two-time Rotary president — said Legion finance officer Henry Broughton, for whom he has great respect, twisted his arm into accepting this year’s award on March 12. The banquet begins at 7 p.m. after a 6 p.m. cocktail hour.
“You can’t say no to Henry ... So I’m honoring Henry,” Gaines said, adding, “I hate recognition. I’m not a plaque guy. I like giving recognition.”
Broughton was part of the committee that chose Gaines this year; he was joined in that task by Post Commander Larney McGrath, First Deputy Commander Roger Norton and historian Dennis Armell.
Post spokesman John Mitchell provided a statement from Broughton about the selection:
“He stood out from the other candidates considered primarily because of the breadth and reach of his community contributions. The other candidates were outstanding in the things they did, but they tended to have a more narrow focus with their community involvement. Scott’s contributions touched a much wider variety of groups, charities and constituencies.”
Gaines’ contributions include:
• Founding the Rotary Books for Bikes program, modeled after a Chittenden County effort. Gaines introduced it to the Vergennes area in 1998. The Rotary now partners with the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad and also gives away bike helmets. Kids receive one chance to win a bike per each book read. The program has given away about four dozen bikes and tricycles. In 2008, the program gave away eight bikes and 64 helmets, and 458 kids read 1,404 books.
• Working annually to organize and operate the Rotary’s Vergennes Day Rubber Duckie race.
• Serving as chairman for years of the annual Henry Leach Golf Outing at Cedar Knolls Country Club, a benefit for the Green Mountain Council of Boy Scouts.
• Holding the presidency of the chamber. Gaines said he considers the position a hands-on job and works in tandem with Addison County Chamber of Commerce liaison Marguerite Senecal, helping to set up for meetings or for several chamber-sponsored annual events, including Vergennes Day, French Heritage Days, the Holiday Stroll, a new Halloween event in 2008 and a new Otter Creek basin celebration planned this year.
“I’m your doer,” Gaines said. “If Marguerite calls and says, ‘I need help getting the flags,’ or whatever, I’m just going to do it.”
• Delivering Meals on Wheels every Friday. Gaines said he looks forward to that task. “It’s a really great break in the day ... I’m getting to talk to people who want to talk to me about other things bedsides work,” he said. “I know they need my help, and I know they enjoy my company, and it’s all extremely sincere.”
• Coaching. A former athlete at Vergennes Union High School (he graduated in 1981), Gaines also played soccer for two years at Champlain College, where he obtained an associates degree in 1984. He said he tries to pass on life skills and even dietary advice as well as baseball and soccer instruction to the athletes. Like many youth coaches, Gaines said the effort is its own reward. “I’m at the store or out on the street, and I hear a kid yell, ‘Hey, Coach Gaines.’ That’s pretty neat,” he said.
Gaines is always ready to lend his business parking lot, which lies at the intersection of Monkton Road and Route 7, for fund-raising car washes. For a half-dozen years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gaines also served as chairman of an annual event at the Addison County Eagles’ Club on New Haven Road in Vergennes that raised more than $80,000 for the American Heart Association.
Gaines named several role models who inspired him. His agency — founded by his father, Allen, and co-owned with his brother, Gary — is affiliated with Co-Operative Insurance Companies, although it can write policies with other firms.
Gaines said people at Co-Op like Henry Leach and the late Buster Brush set an example he believed he should follow.
“The peers that I’ve grown up with showed me that it is equally important to give back to the community in any way that you can,” he said.
The constant motion and accomplishments of Vergennes Fire Chief Ralph Jackman also made an impression.
“Ralph kind of took me under his wing, too,” he said. “I like to think I follow in his footsteps.”
And his upbringing made a difference.
“If I’m given a task, I’m probably going to put a lot of effort into it, because I’m not going to fail,” Gaines said. “I wasn’t brought up to fail.”