WARRENSBURG-A local woman who's dedicated most all of her adult life to community service has been named "Citizen of the Year" for 2011 by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1984, Whalen has been involved in various projects in the town of Warrensburg, concentrating on beautification, historic preservation, lifestyle sustainability and enriching the local fabric of life, Chamber official Sandi Parisi said Monday.
"Warrensburg is her heart," she said. "It's just amazing the time she's devoted to the town through the years."
Whalen will be honored at a Citizen of the Year dinner set for June 17 at Grace's Restaurant in Warrensburg.
Starting her volunteer work in 1987 with the relatively new Warrensburgh Beautification Committee, Whalen launched various landscaping efforts around town.
In 1989, she founded Christmas in Warrensburgh, a weekend event early in December that includes a variety of holiday activities for all ages and musical performances. The event, now a treasured local tradition, draws hundreds annually to various venues and retail shops in town.
In 1998, she launched the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers' Market, which has grown from one vendor selling vegetables off his tailgate to a weekly venue that includes 15 vendors of produce, flowers, organic meats, baked goods crafts and specialty goods.
The market, which at times features acoustic music performances, is held in the Warrensburgh Mills Historic District Park, which she helped create with other members of Warrensburgh Beautification, including Kaena Loo.
Neglected for decades as a town-owned parcel, the Warrensburgh Mills Park now features a gazebo, parking areas, landscaping, rest room and utilities due to the tireless lobbying of Whalen and her associates.
This wasn't the only town park she and helped launch or upgrade. She and others from Warrensburgh Beautification Inc. worked on developing seven town parks along the Schroon River, and obtained state grants for four of them.
Her work started with the development of the Cal Engle Park at the Warrensburg Health Center. Now a landscaped site with a memorial, a bench and trees, the park was once merely an asphalt lot.
Through the years, she also has brainstormed and conducted various beautification efforts at town facilities. Last year, she and others worked on landscaping the town hall plot.
Her most influential work, however, may be in historic preservation, observers have said.
She led a lengthy, successful effort to have areas of town designated as historic districts on the National Registers of Historic Places, and on the state register as well.
In addition, she has actively campaigned to protect and preserve area historic resources in town, and to retain local quality of life in the face of encroaching development.
Her community involvement goes further. For 15 years, she's served as chairwoman of the Warrensburg cancer crusade.
Also, she's devoted many hours to the development of two townwide master plans.
In addition, she's been an active member of the board of directors of Adirondack Harvest, which promotes sustainable agriculture in the Adirondacks.
Parisi said Whalen's devotion to Warrensburg was evident to all when in the early 2000s she moved to Schenectady for several years, yet she commuted to Warrensburg often to continue her work for Warrensburg beautification, historic preservation, the holiday event and the farmers' market.
"This award is way overdue," Parisi said. "I couldn't be happier."
Reservations can be made for the Citizen of the Year dinner on June 17 by calling the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce at 623-2161. Seating is limited.
Whalen said Monday she was surprised and pleased by the Citizen of the Year designation.
"I am very honored," she said, noting that she had recently reviewed the long list of community standouts who had received the award in the past. "I guess I now join very illustrious company."