Haradon to be honored as Outstanding Citizen of the Year
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
By most people’s clocks, it was just too early in the morning for fellowship and breakfast, but a quick look around a recent gathering of busy people at the Longwood Gardens Café gave every reason to believe that 6:30 in the morning is generally the only time that the members of the Longwood Rotary Club have available.
For more than an hour, business leaders, community organizers, health professionals and educators shared stories and made connections, in a link of commonality central to the Club’s motto: “Service Above Self.” Here, there is little care for what someone does for a living and how much money they make and what car they drive; it’s what they do for the community that matters at the Rotary. It’s the real measuring stick of success.
For the past several decades, Dave Haradon will be the first to admit that he is not, by nature, a man comfortable in the spotlight. Ask him what his idea of success is, and he will say that it is to meet someone in the community who has a need, and then connect him or her with the right person who has the knowledge, experience and capacity to provide assistance. He has taught classes in ontological leadership and run non-profit service organizations – all while helping thousands of Chester County residents to lead better lives – but ask him to articulate the fullness of what he has done and he finds it very difficult to find the words.
On March 18, at the 49th annual Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce Dinner at Longwood Gardens, before hundreds of the most prominent and respected leaders in Chester County, he will somehow have to find the right words.
Haradon has been named the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award, given annually by the chamber to someone whose contributions to the community, and displays of vision, leadership and citizenship, have positively impacted the entire region.
When he recently arrived at the Family Promise Day Center in West Grove, Haradon thought he was invited there to meet with an IT service person to discuss connections at the center. He was wrong. He was ushered into another room by Family Promise executive director Susan Minarchi, and he saw Cheryl Kuhn of the chamber, and community leader Dr. Chad Laurence, and Melanie Wheeler from the Food Cupboard – all waiting to tell him that he had just been named Outstanding Citizen of the Year.
“The names of those who have won this award are really incredible people, who have made a tremendous contributions to the community,” said Haradon, who will be joined at the event by his wife, Peggy, and their children, John and Marcia. “They have done extraordinary things, so it’s an honor to be included among them.”
The foundation of Haradon’s calling began in high school, when he joined a service key club in Circleville, Ohio. He began working with other students on several community projects, quickly learned that he liked the work, and after he graduated from college and he and Peggy settled in Seaford, Del., Haradon became involved in a local Jaycees Club there.
“I remember that my first project with the Jaycees was coordinating an Easter egg hunt,” he said. “After the event, a lot of people came up to me and told me that I had done a great job. As I went through life, I kept doing service events, whether it was as a professional or as a volunteer. I kept reaching out.”
What quietly began in Ohio has blossomed into part of Haradon’s definition. He has served for many years on the boards of the Jennersville and Kennett Square YMCA, as well as on the Historic Kennett Board for two years. A longtime member of the Longwood Rotary, he served as its president in 2008-2009, as well as its district conference co-chair, board member and treasurer. He was an instructor for the Rotary Leadership Institute, where he teaches classes in ontological leadership.
“Ontology is a way of studying how you’re being as a person,” he said. “So many times, we define people by what they do. Ontological leadership talks about what we’re being as people, and I really embrace that -- to teach how people are as people, and how they can use that to make a difference in people’s lives.”
“Even though Dave has a strong commitment to several community organizations, he is willing to step out into the broader community and find the right connections and bridges between his organization's mission and the community needs,” said Joan Holliday, a founding member of the Bridging the Community group in Kennett Square, who will present Haradon with the award. “He is totally invested in what he is doing, but always listening and asking how we can make our individual lives and organizations ‘extraordinary.’"
Holliday said that when Haradon first started to attend Bridging the Community meetings a decade ago, his impact was quickly felt. He not only helped provide volunteers and sources of funding to those who asked for it, he doubled his efforts by taking what he had learned at Bridging the Community back to the Longwood Rotary and the Church of the Advent. His impact was so immediate that he began co-facilitating the Bridging meetings two years ago.
“[In Bridging the Community], I saw an organization that brought people together and also generated a lot of ideas for community service projects,” Haradon said. “You go to those meetings and you get all kinds of ideas for how you can do projects, what needs people have, and connecting people to people. I enjoy bringing people together.”
“Dave believed there was a solution to most problems, and that organizations like the Rotary and Church of the Advent were great sources for these solutions,” Holliday said. “This has resulted in many wonderful community outreach efforts, such as park clean-ups, the remodeling of the Kennett Food Cupboard, funds for new ventures, and most recently, Family Promise of Southern Chester County.”
Family Promise, for which Haradon served as the founding board member, helps children and their families experiencing homelessness achieve lasting self-sufficiency and stability by providing shelter, meals, and support services through a network of congregations and volunteers until they find sustainable housing.
While he is very quick to credit any of his colleagues, Haradon is equally deferential when asked if it takes a special person to become a community leader.
“Just show up,” he said. “One of the things that’s always impressed me about the Kennett Square area is the number of non-profits here. Every non-profit I’ve ever known is always crying for people to help out and volunteer. Whether it’s Rotary or Kiwanis, just show up, and you will make a difference in someone’s life.”
The payoff that Haradon gets is one rarely shared, but one whose joy is privately immeasurable.
“Take Kennett Square, for example,” Haradon said. “When you drive around this town, you can say to yourself, ‘I helped develop the Senior Center. I helped do some work in the park. I helped to build a playground in the park.’ The impact that all of this has on people’s lives is really amazing. That’s the game I’m in -- to impact people’s lives positively. It’s a good game.”
The presenting sponsor for the March 18 event is the law form of Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco, while the welcoming reception will be hosted by Fulton Bank-Brandywine Division.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.