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Stewart Jensen will be presented with 2022 George Bailey Award

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  • Staff Report 

The 2022 George Bailey Award will be presented to Stewart Jensen during the “It’s a Wonderful Life Weekend.” The Award will be presented by Karolyn “Zuzu” Grimes, on Saturday, December 10 at 10:00 AM at Trinity Church, 27 Fall Street, in Seneca Falls. The public, and especially those whose lives have been touched by Stewart Jensen over the years, are invited to attend the ceremony.

The late Norma Mitchell always felt that Stewart Jensen was the perfect George Bailey. He and his family have operated Seneca Office Products on Fall Street for almost 30 years. On the outside, Seneca Office Products looks like a regular storefront, but inside is an incredible array of products – large and small. It epitomizes the small-town business that values everyone and goes out of its way to find the best prices for each customer.

A graduate of Mynderse Academy, Stewart Jensen returned to Seneca Falls in the 1970s after two years of junior college in Poughkeepsie, NY, and began a life of making Seneca Falls a better place. He recalls: “I came back to Seneca Falls and and joined the Jaycees. For those who may not know, that’s an acronym for Junior Chamber of Commerce. Among the community service activities, we set up a phone bank for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon as well as helping work those phones.”

He and his wife Lois had two sons, Adam and Nicholas, and in the 1990’s, they became involved in Boy Scouts and Stewart became the Scoutmaster. One of the many projects the troop did with the help of its other leaders was the ‘Scouting for Food’ town-wide campaign. Every autumn for ten years, the Scouts would hang door hangers saying, “Scouts helping you help those in need.” A week later, Scouts canvased their territories picking up donations for the House of Concern. After a few years, they weighed the donations at Luffman’s Metal Recycling. Stewart recalls: “We yearly delivered close to and sometimes over a ton of food.” Even after his sons left Scouting, Stewart continues to stay involved.

In the early nineties, he served on the board of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce during the building construction and development of its Mission Statement.

Stewart Jensen has long worked to make Fall Street a safer place for pedestrians. He recalls that at one time, maybe one out of fifteen cars would stop for a pedestrian waiting to use the crosswalk. In 1996, Seneca Falls tourists’ traffic was increasing due to the approaching 150th anniversary celebration of the First Women’s Rights Convention. Stewart recalls that screeching brakes were a regular occurrence and a pedestrian accident was inevitable. He bought a sign, acquired permission to place the sign, and promised to take it off the street every night after the busy pedestrian traffic ended. After a minor snafu with the DOT, the village board approved the sign and two others.

In the early 2000s, Stewart started to address the lack of parking that was affecting local businesses. Representing the Seneca Falls Business Association, he researched and helped implement ways to improve parking. One can imagine George Bailey doing exactly the same thing – always looking for ways to make life better for everyone in his community.

The IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity created the George Bailey Award in 2004 to honor an individual who embodies the spirit of George Bailey by consistently contributing to the lives of his/her neighbors and without whom Seneca Falls would be a very different place.