A legend among us: Hamel wins DFI award

(Hamel is the first recipient of the Legend Award. Photo courtesy of Downtown Framingham, Inc.)

Executive Vice President Dale Hamel accepted the 2018 Legend Award from Downtown Framingham, Inc. during the organization’s annual board meeting on March 15.

Downtown Framingham, Inc. (DFI) is an independent nonprofit “dedicated to serving both people and local businesses by creating the most vibrant, socially engaged and innovative area outside Boston,” according to its website. DFI was previously known as The Framingham Downtown Renaissance (FDR).

The organization follows the Main Street America model to establish initiatives focused on the economic vitality, design, promotion and organization of Framingham’s downtown area. These initiatives include hosting business-based events – such as the recent Shamrock Stroll through downtown bars and breweries – and providing support for local artists and businesses.

Hamel said in an email the organization is working on “a number of initiatives focused on making the downtown more attractive, safe and convenient, as well as encouraging more interesting destination establishments.”

He added, “Downtown Framingham now has ten eclectic restaurants providing live entertainment that are actually destination points as opposed to the downtown being seen as a place to cut through while trying to avoid train backups!”

The Legend Award was created this year by Courtney Thraen, executive director of DFI, in order to “celebrate and acknowledge” the volunteer board of directors who have worked “tirelessly” to support DFI throughout the years, Thraen said.

Hamel is the first recipient of the Legend Award.

Hamel said, “I joined an organization called ‘Framingham Downtown Solutions’ over a decade ago as I was interested in getting involved with the (then) Town of Framingham and to help revitalize the downtown as that would ultimately be an asset to the University.”

He worked to help the volunteer-based organization make connections with the town and with business owners. He also helped it register as a nonprofit so that it could raise funds to support new initiatives.

Hamel added, “I served as FDR board president for the first eight years of FDR’s existence and for the past year as a board member as we have transitioned the organization (now Downtown Framingham, Inc.) to more of a business association with local business/property owners and other local constituent representatives making up the board.”

Hamel said at his last official board meeting with DFI last week, he was also appointed an ex-officio member of the DFI board.

Thraen said Hamel received the Legend Award in honor of “over one decade of sustained, superior performance while overseeing the stand-up and full, successful operation of this community non-profit organization.”

FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said Hamel “exemplifies what a public university means to our community. His work with Framingham has made a difference, and we are proud of his being recognized with the Legend Award.”

Cevallos added, “He certainly deserves it!”

Mike Gatlin, president of the executive board that oversees DFI, and Hamel’s successor, said Hamel was crucial to the development of FDR and the transition to DFI.

“We’re doing fairly well downtown now,” Gatlin said. “Businesses downtown recognize us and work with us and we’re able to accomplish things. There’s a lot going on, and it’s going on because when Dale was president of Framingham Downtown, Inc., he worked to get people involved. … What he did is he laid the foundation for all that’s happening now.”

Hamel helped the organization by connecting it with interns and offering his financial expertise, Gatlin said. “You’d think he was a municipal employee given the level of his involvement, but it’s all on a volunteer basis.”

Gatlin added, “I often say to my wife, ‘When I grow up, I want to be Dale Hamel.’”