Person of the Week
Christine Beirne: Making the Most of Opportunities
Madison Exchange Club President-elect Christine Beirne is also active with the E.C. Scranton Library Board. (Photo courtesy of Christine Beirne)
Christine Beirne is the daughter of Irish immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1950s. As a first-generation American married to Brian, who came here from Ireland as a kid, Christine developed pride in both her parents’ homeland and her own.
“They always instilled in me that this is the best country in the world and all the opportunities that are offered to people who come to this country looking for a better start in life, and so I grew up like that,” she says.
Christine has lived in Madison for 23 years. The couple’s two children are Roisin, 21, a second-class cadet, or junior, at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, and Brian, 18, a senior at Daniel Hand High School. The family has a Great Dane named Lexi who loves long walks.
Christine certainly seems to be taking advantage of the opportunities available to her. She is the senior vice president and director of Human Resources for Guilford Savings Bank (GSB) and has worked there for eight years. She’s continuing her education and expects to graduate from Stonier Graduate School of Banking in June and is currently enrolled in Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate program.
“I feel so fortunate to work for GSB, an organization that promotes volunteerism and community engagement,” Christine says. “My colleagues and I receive encouragement and support from GSB to volunteer with organizations and missions that we are passionate about. In addition to employees serving on 75 non-profit boards, GSB donated nearly $300,000 to local community organizations in 2020. I value working for an organization that understands the importance of supporting our communities.”
Some of Christine’s past volunteer work includes serving as a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and a religious education teacher at St. Margaret for four years.
On her penchant for volunteering, she says, “Volunteering gives everyone the chance to contribute to the kind of community and world they want to live in every day. Volunteering also can change how you see the world and the people in it. Through volunteering, you can come in contact with people from different backgrounds and perspectives, and everyone has a voice. Seeing different perspectives can open one’s mind and help build bridges of understanding.”
Now she is a member of the Board of Trustees of E.C. Scranton Memorial Library and has been for the past three years.
“I just love the library,” she says. “What it offers, the services it provides. Growing up, my children enjoyed sifting through the picture books, playing with the train table and blocks, and attending many group activities. As they grew, they used the library as a place to study or browse the latest releases. Public libraries provide educational resources to everyone. They are important community hubs; they connect people to information and to each other.”
On Friday, June 4, the library will host the Scranton Shops, a fundraising event that will showcase the new building and support local business. More information can be found at scrantonlibrary.org.
Finally, Christine has been a member of the Exchange Club of Madison for six years, on the board for four years, and is currently serving as president-elect. She will take over as president in July.
Christine explains that Exchange Club of Madison is a local branch of the National Exchange, a service organization exclusively serving communities. Through the Programs of service—Americanism, community service, and youth programs—its members support activities that benefit youth, promote pride in the U.S., and honor military and public service providers, to name a few. Exchange Club’s national project is the prevention of child abuse.
On a personal note, she reflects, “When my children were young, we attended the egg hunts at the Surf Club and nearly every Madison 4th of July parade, which are organized and fully funded by Exchange. However, it wasn’t until my daughter joined the Exchange Club’s student run organization, Excel, when she was in 7th grade that I truly began to understand the service they provide to the community.
“Exchange is so much more than creating fun town activities such as Culinary Arts Night, the annual Golf Classic, and our largest event Christmas tree sales on the Green,” she adds. “These events are fabulous and bring joy to attendees, but the reason we hold the events is to provide important funding to Connecticut’s child abuse prevention centers. We also provide numerous youth awards such as Youth of the Month/Year & ACE, First Responder honor events, the Freedom Shrines, and provide donations to the Food Pantry and many other community services.”
The pandemic necessitated the cancellation of last year’s 4th of July parade, so the Exchange Club began looking at other ways to promote Americanism while maintaining social distancing.
Christine says, “We also were looking for ways to reverently remember the 20th anniversary of 9/11. We chose the Healing Field program, which started in 2002 as a way to commemorate the lives of those lost to us on Sept. 11, 2001. Since the first Healing Field display in 2002, hundreds of communities across America have hosted a Healing Field or Field of Honor.”
The Exchange Club of Madison’s Healing Field will be located on the Madison Green with flags displayed from Sept. 3 to 14 and the club will hold three ceremonies during that time frame: A dedication ceremony Sept. 3; the annual memorial service program on Sept. 11, which club member Pam McKinnon will develop and lead as she has done so since 2002; and a closing ceremony for the Healing Field on Sept 14. The times for these events will be shared through Exchange Club’s Facebook page as well as through madisonexchange.org.
The Exchange Club anticipates selling 250 3’x5’ flags for the Healing Field display. The club is sponsoring four flags, which will be prominently displayed for four people who lost their lives on 9/11 who were either residents of Madison or had ties to the town: Dianne Bullis-Snyder, Anthony Demas, Peter Gelinas, and Robert Peraza.
The event is free to attend. Flags may be sponsored for $40 each and taken home at the end of the event to continue the tribute throughout the community as they fly proudly at homes and businesses. Donations and Healing Field flag purchases can be made through www.healingfield.org/event/madisonct21.
“The flags can be dedicated to victims of 9/11, active or fallen military, veterans, first responders, [and] COVID heroes such as nurses and teachers,” Christine says. “People can also choose to purchase a special canine flag that honors our service animals. Each flag will have a dedication tag attached to the display pole. Flags can also be donated to the Exchange Club of Madison after the event. We will use the donated flags as part of our supply to the Town of Madison to fly along Boston Post Road.”
She adds, “People can walk through the rows and look at the tags on the flag to see who sponsored them. What’s nice about this event, too, is that, for those who choose to buy a flag, at the end of the event they have the option to take that flag home with them with the pole and they can fly it proudly at their homes and businesses as well.”
Due to delays in shipping, flag sales will end in late June so that flags can be ordered and received in advance of the event. All proceeds from the sale of flags will support the ongoing efforts of the Madison Exchange Club. The club asks the public to consider supporting this unifying patriotic tribute by purchasing a flag and dedicating it to an individual or cause, or becoming a Healing Field sponsor. People can also volunteer to help prepare displays, place flags, staff the viewing kiosk, and/or assist at the ceremonies. For more information, email email@example.com or call 203-350-9244. Another option is to donate funds to the Madison Exchange Club to repair and replace downtown flags by sending a check to The Madison Exchange Club, P.O. Box 644, Madison, CT 06443.