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St. Lawrence NYSARC honors a man with the essence of community

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CANTON — Recognized for his appreciation, dedication and being an “essence of community spirit,” St. Lawrence NYSARC said thank you to a constant provider.

Watertown restaurant owner and Rotarian Richard “Dick” E. Alexander was awarded NYSARC’s Community Spirit Award for his years of donations to their Dodge Pond Project.

A humble man, Mr. Alexander, 80, said he was shocked at receiving the award and preferred to fly under the radar.

“I was asked to attend their annual dinner and at one point they called my name up,” Mr. Alexander said. “It left me a little red in the face, but my wife and I are pleased to accept this.”

Mr. Alexander and his wife, Pat A., are owners of Riccardo’s Restaurant, on Arsenal Street, and as an almost 50 year member of the Watertown Sunrise Rotary Club, he said it was the organization’s deep involvement in Dodge Pond that got him involved.

St. Lawrence NYSARC Executive Director Daphne A. Pickert said it was Mr. Alexander’s “deep consideration” that led to his being selected as this year’s recipient of the award.

“Dick came up for a Rotary night at the camp and immediately saw a need and just stepped up to the plate,” Ms. Pickert said. “He is a remarkable man and we think very highly of Dick and his wife Pat.”

The Alexanders are very supportive, Ms. Pickert said, and when at the camp, Mr. Alexander looks around and makes suggestions on how to make things more accessible.

“He was recognized for finding innovative ways to give quality camping experiences for people with disabilities,” Ms. Pickert said.

Examples of innovative projects included a completely accessible pavilion and designs for small cabins to replace tents as an alternative outdoor camping experience.

But those projects came with time.

A general contractor for 60 years, Mr. Alexander said it was on his first visit, three years ago, that he began his investment.

“My first donation was of lumber to build an outhouse,” Mr. Alexander said. “They had a remote area on the other side of the island and there was no privy over there. Pat and I donated the materials so they could build a privy so when people were over there they could have some comfort.”

Some other donated items include a ranger, three cabins, lean-tos, folding chairs and an evaporator for maple syrup production.

Mr. Alexander said it is the “devotion,” “patience” and “vision” of people like Ms. Pickert and Dodge Pond Program Director Joe Montgomery that motivate people to help.

“The clients are so appreciative of everything,” Mr. Alexander said. “Thank God my wife and I are healthy, and when you see these disadvantaged people you just want to reach out and do something for them.”

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