DPLAC Vice Chair Tom McCrory and Chair Cat Ozment present the Community Service Award in honor of President Jimmy Carter to LARSO Director Bernadette Lauritzen, center, Tuesday at the Betty Ehart Senior Center. Photo by Chad Lauritzen
DPLAC Vice Chair Tom McCrory, LARSO ED Bernadette Lauritzen, DPLAC Chair Cat Ozment, DPLAC Fundraising Organizer Brandi Engeman. Photo by Chad Lauritzen
Tuesday Nov. 2, the Democratic Party of Los Alamos County (DPLAC) honored Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization (LARSO) Executive Director Bernadette Lauritzen with their inaugural Jimmy Carter Service Award for her outstanding commitment to the Los Alamos senior community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a small, COVID-safe ceremony at the Betty Ehart Senior Center, DPLAC Chair Cat Ozment, along with Vice Chair Tom McCrory and Fundraising Organizer Brandi Engeman presented the award. Members of the LARSO Board of Directors also were present and thanked Lauritzen for her tireless work.
“We chose to connect our Service Award to President Jimmy Carter, whose values of community service in pursuit of a greater good inspire our volunteers,” DPLAC Chair Cat Ozment said. “Bernadette Lauritzen’s efforts to keep our senior community safe, healthy, and social during the pandemic are precisely what this award is about. It is a privilege to recognize the work of someone who has supported our seniors–and our whole community–from behind the scenes for so many years.”
Lauritzen thanked the many people on her team and in her life who support her in her work.
“I’d like to say how honored I am that you have chosen to even include my name in the same sentence as Jimmy Carter,” she said.
Fundraising Organizer Brandi Engeman said, “We were looking at fundraising and outreach opportunities for the year and realized one thing that was lacking was a community service award. Former County Councilor Antonio Maggiore proposed President Jimmy Carter as a Democratic leader who inspires us to rise up and do better ourselves. When the committee started looking for candidates to honor within our own community, Bernadette’s name was repeated again and again during the process, and she was the clear choice for this inaugural year.”
DPLAC had originally planned a larger event to celebrate the award and its recipient, but it was delayed and then canceled due to COVID.
DPLAC Chair Cat Ozment shared the following comments:
“The Democratic Party of Los Alamos County (DPLAC) is delighted to present Bernadette Lauritzen, director of the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization, with a Community Service Award in recognition of her work to keep our senior community safe, healthy, and social during the pandemic’s peak.
“The award is given by Los Alamos Democrats in honor of President Jimmy Carter, whose values of community service in pursuit of a greater good inspire our volunteers.
“When COVID hit and the whole state locked down, most of us didn’t know what to do. We scrambled to adapt to a new way of life in a matter of days, and lots of things fell through the cracks for a lot of people.
“One thing that did not fall through the cracks was care for Los Alamos Seniors. Our residents who rely on the Senior Centers for lunches, access to medical equipment, social interaction, and community connection had Bernadette on their side. She adapted quickly, leading her team to create a drive-through lunch pick up system and enhancing meal delivery so basic food needs would be met.
“She made sure health checks were done so the people they usually saw in person still had regular check-ins. She organized birthday cards for seniors in isolation, so they wouldn’t feel quite so isolated. She and her team made sure our seniors had medical equipment and housing, and, later, vaccinations. She went above and beyond and became one of Los Alamos’s quiet heroes of the pandemic.
“Well before the pandemic, Bernadette organized the Champions of Youth Ambitions (C’YA) Program and Awards, which honors the people and organizations that make a difference in our community. We are pleased to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts of someone who has supported our seniors–and our whole community–from behind the scenes for so many years.
“Bernadette provides us all with an example of dedicated service and reminds us of the values at the heart of a healthy community. It is the privilege of the Democratic Party of Los Alamos County to present Bernadette Lauritzen with our Jimmy Carter Community Service Award.”
In accepting the award, Lauritzen expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the support of her family, staff and others.
“I’d like to say how honored I am, that you have chosen to even include my name in the same sentence as President Carter,” Lauritzen said.
“I thank you for recognizing our work here. I would not be here without the support of my husband Chad, and the role my kids unknowingly played, in me getting here today.
“I thank Leadership Los Alamos, who ignited the “Asset’s Spark,” and former Superintendent, Gene Schmidt, who first referred to me, as a “servant leader.” That would later be echoed by former LARSO Director, Pauline Powell Schneider, in a letter of support, for me to acquire this position.
“I work with a great board of directors, especially John Baillie, Tom McLaughlin and former member, Bob Swift, who have taken on the mantle, of listening to me with a full heart, as we navigate this pandemic path.
“Two members of my staff Amy Vigil and Elizabeth Coons have kept me sane, since this whole event started in March of 2020. We are entering the 20th month here, and the rules change all of the time. To include some humor, and in the words of George Washington, in Lyn Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton,
“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.”
LARSO Executive Director Bernadette Lauritzen, center, with LARSO Board of Directors members from left, Kay Reiswig, John Baillie, Lauritzen, Don Gerheart and Tom McLaughlin. Photo by Brandi Engeman