Voices of the Bay

Interview: Susan Donovan

"For me, volunteering is a huge part of my life. I have a desire to make things the best they can be."


Susan (Remieres) Donovan is the 2015 recipient of The Hattie Brown Award presented annually since 1987 by the Fourth of July Committee to a worthy Bristolian who demonstrates the same spirit of community service as that of the late Hattie Brown. A lifelong resident of Bristol – with the exception of a few years away – Susan has dedicated hours of service to numerous organizations. Chair of the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter and Chair of the Save Bristol Harbor Education Committee, her involvement stretches across the spectrum from schools to saving historic sites to fighting LNG. A retired physical education teacher who now works as an Education Consultant at the Brown University Institute of Community Health Promotion, Susan received both a bachelor’s degree and subsequently a Master’s degree in School Administration from Rhode Island College. She and her husband Glenn are the parents of three grown children and have three grandchildren. When not dedicating time and energy to issues, Susan enjoys gardening, painting, walking, kayaking and singing with a group of friends.

When I moved back to Bristol I was married with small children. Most of my childhood friends had moved away and volunteering was a way to meet people and develop new friendships. This was before Parents as Teachers and playgroups. When I saw a notice that the Bristol Art Museum was looking to start up again and needed volunteers, I joined. Today most of my good friends are involved with non-profits and if I hadn’t started volunteering I wouldn’t have met them. When you volunteer you meet the best people!

We recently started to build a fourth Habitat home, our first in Bristol. Handing the keys over to a family is a very moving experience. The first hand stories about the difference a home makes in the lives of the children are so poignant.

I got involved with Linden place and the Bristol Art Museum because I wanted people to appreciate those places as much as I do. Growing up I lived downtown and would bike with my friend to the Art Museum, drop the bikes in the hedges and visit the exhibits. The docents would welcome us and talk to us. They helped me appreciate the art and made me feel that it was important to learn something about it.

My parents also volunteered in town. My mother worked with the Bristol Junior Women’s Club and church groups and my father helped form the Historic District Commission and served on the Harbor Commission. He felt strongly about giving back because he loved Bristol so much.

I was able to volunteer with a full time job while raising three children because my husband was so supportive. For me, volunteering is a huge part of my life. I have a desire to make things the best they can be. Bristol is a great place to live and I want everyone to really love living here. I just love the environment and I want to preserve it. I want the town to prosper but not at the expense of the town’s beauty. I wouldn’t feel a part of the community if I wasn’t involved. Some people don’t know how to take that first step. I think scouting programs really plant those seeds for volunteering so when children become adults it isn’t a stretch to volunteer. Can you imagine how even more wonderful Bristol would be if everyone got involved? sdonovan@fullchannel.net