Distilling the best: Melissa Spicer earns 'Rare' leadership award

Pictured above is Clear Path for Veterans CEO and Co-Founder Melissa Spicer with members of the Cazenovia American Legion Post 88, which has been a generous supporter of Clear Path since its founding in 2011.

Clear Path’s Chief Development Officer Myron Thurston III received a top-secret call in early March about an award for the organization’s CEO. About a week later the “Eagle” had landed.

Last week, Clear Path for Veterans’ CEO and Co-Founder Melissa Spicer learned via a phone call from Kentucky that she – and Clear Path by extension – was chosen to receive the 2018 Eagle Rare Life Award in the leadership category.

The Eagle Rare Life Award, now in its eighth year, is presented by Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey – part of the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery, an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Ky. Each year, Eagle Rare donates $50,000 to a non-profit organization as a grand prize winner and $5,000 each to organizations within six categories. Individuals are nominated within those categories who share “Eagle Rare’s passion for excellence and demonstrate the epitome of courage, leadership, survival, heroism, devotion and character,” according to the company’s website.

“I’m honored to receive this award, although Clear Path for Veterans is what it is today thanks to the hardworking efforts of many. We, as a community, have led this initiative and I’m happy to accept this on their behalf,” Spicer said. “A vision is merely a dream, unless there are people to support and believe in it. The willingness of our staff, volunteers and donors to step up (many of whom are Veterans) and contribute – has created a beautiful place that delivers a high level of service that sets the bar that other communities want to follow. Over the past seven years, we have supported thousands of Veterans each year and in turn, they have made our communities better.

“I hope this award brings more attention to Clear Path for Veterans, and in turn brings more attention to our Veteran population whom I am forever grateful to for showing me true service above self. The family traditions of the Buffalo Trace Distillery go way back and they have dedicated themselves to excellence and service to others. Whether you’re serving Veterans or making bourbon, you want to inspire and serve others.”

Spicer shared a nomination in the leadership category along with 27 other individuals, representing a wide range of organizations – including several dedicated to serving Veterans, a film society, a franchised dance school, and an organization dedicated to rescuing and adopting domestic pigeons and doves.

“Melissa has demonstrated creativity and vision in her leadership,” notes her nomination entry. “She exemplifies an outstanding philanthropist because she didn’t choose the traditional route of simply donating to a non-profit agency. Rather, she invested in a community – a community of people who selflessly raised their hand to protect our everyday freedoms.

“Melissa helped personally fund the acquisition of a 78-acre tranquil property in Chittenango, knowing it would provide a place of respite for the Veteran community. Her financial support hasn’t ended there as she has continued to give back to Clear Path for Veterans.”

To date, the Eagle Rare Life Award program has donated $400,000 to multiple non-profit organizations across the U.S. This year’s panel of judges included Garden & Gun magazine Executive Managing Editor Phillip Rhodes, Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, and past Eagle Rare Life Award winners among others.

At a date to be announced, Spicer will receive an award ceremony at Clear Path for Veterans in Chittenango, hosted by Buffalo Trace Distillery.