GILLETTE, NJ - Tony Britt quips that every once in a while he turns to his wife, Irene, and declares that he feels like he's George Bailey, the character in one of his favorite movies.
Britt has lived in Chatham for 15 years and during that time he's made it his own "Bedford Falls" from the 1946 Frank Capra movie "It's a Wonderful Life," which stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.
On Tuesday night, Britt had his George Bailey moment when he was recognized by the Chatham Jaycees with the organization's Distinguished Service Award at the annual give-back-to-Chatham get together the Jaycees held at the Long Hill Tavern.
The Chatham Jaycees raises funds through its Christmas Tree Sale and Fishawack Run and then puts it back into the community by handing out checks to numerous organizations in town. It also selects a person known for giving back to the community with a Distinguished Service award.
Each organization receiving a check from the Jaycees sends a representative to the annual event and tells about the good the money will be used for. Britt has volunteered and chaired so many organizations in town that it's likely he's had personal contact with everyone who was in the room at the Long Hill Tavern.
In fact, Britt recounted a story of one person coming up to him and telling him about ideas for a certain upcoming event. After listening, Britt politely told the person that he liked the idea, but he wasn't involved in the event. That's a great example of how well he is known for his involvement and public service.
"When Bill Heap called me about this award, I thought he was calling me about the Christmas Tree sale," Britt said. "I was so shocked. I never thought that anything I did would lead to this."
Britt started out volunteering for his daughter's softball team and it snowballed from there. As chair of the Chatham Recreation Committee he led a push to renovate Lum Field.
He was the co-chair of the first Relay for Life held in Chatham; formed the Chatham Downtown Alliance, which has sponsored and planned numerous downtown events for businesses and children; is active as a Boy Scout leader, and was involved in Milton Avenue and Lafayette PTOs for a number of years.