By Elissa Gorman, Contributing Writer
Southborough – The Southborough Rotary Club recognized recently recognized Karen Fournier as the 2018 recipient of the “Celebrating Southborough, Celebrating Service” award due to her outstanding service and impact within the community. Former recipient Jeff Beane played a role in selecting this year’s nominee.
Beane noted that Fournier is very active in St. Matthew’s Parish in Southborough, “though her service efforts largely affect the less fortunate in Worcester and in storm impacted areas like Mississippi.”
“She is at the core of organizing local ongoing support for the Pernet [Family Health Service in Worcester],” he added. “She is also instrumental in the annual trip St. Matthew’s teens make to do ‘Habitat like’ work in Mississippi.”
According to Southborough Rotary Club president David Vachris, the award intends to honor an “unsung hero” who has “faithfully served the greater community.”
“’Service Above Self’ is the principal motto of Rotary,” Vachris said. “It conveys the philosophy of unselfish volunteer service.”
Fournier’s affinity towards service began at a young age. Growing up in an “average family income household,” her parents instilled in her the “importance of hard work and giving back to others,” she said. As an adult, Fournier selflessly sacrifices her time as a stay-at-home mother, SOS volunteer, Girl Scout troop leader, team parent, religious education teacher, Mississippi coordinator, and much more.
“Service is giving of oneself: your time, your talents, your energy, freely without expecting anything in return,” Fournier said. “[Service] was a way for me to get involved in the community and a way for me to set an example for my children of how important it is to reach out to others and to give back to your church, your community, your school, and people in need.”
The 2018 Mississippi mission trip marks the 15th year fellow Youth Minister Mark Polny and Fournier have worked together to organize these efforts. According to Polny, Fournier’s influence on the attendees is nothing short of remarkable.
“For several hundred young people, she has set the example of what it means to serve,” Polny said. “That example has changed their lives immensely.”
Senior Grace Andrus has known Fournier “as long as [she] can remember” and has been on the Mississippi trip three years in a row.
“I can tell that [Fournier] is an extraordinary leader for the youth group,” Andrus said. “My most valuable experience was working at the kids’ camp. It’s just so amazing to see kids who don’t have a lot have such big hearts and care for one another as if they were their own sibling.”
The St. Matthew’s community appreciates the work Fournier has done and the influence she has had on those within the parish.
“I’m just so grateful to have Karen as part of the Youth Ministry life here at St. Matthew’s, part of my life, and I know she has touched the hearts of a lot of young people,” Polny said.
Fournier will remain dedicated to serving because of the hope and inspiration it provides.
“We live in a world now in which it is so easy to get discouraged with what’s happening around us, but seeing young people who are so selfless and so caring and so loving of others gives me great hope for the future of our world,” Fournier said. “The youth of the world are our future, and it’s so wonderful to be a part of that and to feel like what we are doing and providing for young people is helping to set a foundation.”