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Story and Photo by Autumn Schanil
Each year, the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development presents the Walter A. Rhulen Award to an individual for their business excellence, their commitment to community, and overall service to humanity. This year, that deserving person is Les Kristt, president of Kristt Kelly Office Systems, Corp. and lifelong resident of Monticello.
Kristt will be honored at the Partnership’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 5, at the Sullivan Event Center in Rock Hill.
“I actually knew Walter, and to be mentioned in the same breath as him is really exciting to me,” smiled Kristt. “He was a really wonderful person, so to be honored makes me feel fulfilled. It lets me know that the things I’ve done over the years have been productive and helpful to the community.”
Kristt has dedicated more than four decades to growing Kristt Kelly Office Systems, expanding it from the days when his father had a storefront on Broadway in Monticello with typewriters, to now providing office machines and repairs, office furniture, computer software and services, and much more.
More of an artist than a computer wiz?
The Frame Game & Art Supplies is part of the company as well, selling a variety of supplies for painting, drawing, framework, the list goes on.
An old black-and-white photo of Kristt’s parents hang in his office, bringing back memories and a vision of the community at a very different time.
Growing a business wasn’t the only thing Kristt had his heart set on though. He spends quite a lot of his free time in helping improve the community he lives in.
“One really important thing to me, that I’ve tried my best over the years to help do, is to have a resurgence in Sullivan County economically, socially and more,” Kristt stated. “I also try my hardest to be a part of many different communities, families and backgrounds in the area.”
Kristt was honored by the Sullivan County NAACP back in 1998 and a second time in 2003. “I was really proud to be a recipient for an award from the NAACP and I still try to remain very much a part of that group, to help where I can for their great cause,” said Kristt. “They asked me to give a talk about black families in Monticello which I gladly accepted. Many of the families I’ve known since high school and I am still friendly with those who haven’t passed on or moved on to a different community.”
Kristt was also a founding director of the Community Bank of Sullivan County, now known as the Catskill Hudson Bank, and served as Chair of the Loan Committee for 13 years.
A photo of Kristt and his colleagues, a grand moment captured in time, hangs just above a small round table in the corner of his office. It shows the directors of Community Bank of Sullivan County the day it officially opened its doors.
He is also a committee member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Orange & Sullivan Celebrity Dinner & Tip Challenge, attending the annual dinner each year dressed in full costume and a radiant smile. And many know and recognize him from his active involvement in the Catskill Regional Medical Center’s Annual Heart-A-Thon.
“The Heart-A-Thon is a fantastic event for a great cause,” said Kristt, “and it’s always a joy to be a part of it. It’s wonderful to see the familiar faces that work hard each year to help raise money.”
A member of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, as well as their former vice president, Kristt was honored by the Chamber in 2002 as Businessperson of the Year and again in 2016 with the Silver Anniversary Award.
And for the past four years, Kristt has served as chairman on the Monticello Central School District’s Hall of Distinction Committee in which, according to Les, they have “inducted 25 fabulous inductees into the hall in that time.”
If you didn’t think that was enough, Kristt has been a member of the Monticello Rotary Club for the past 42 years and was chairman of Monticello’s Bicenntennial Committee in 2004.
Most recently, he helped organize and served as chair of the Rotary’s Monster Run, a fundraising event that benefits the veterans of our area.
Right alongside Kristt, with the same passion for helping the community and those less fortunate, stands his wife Amy, zealous animal advocate and board member of Pets Alive.
“Just at home we have our own four permanent rescue dogs and we have a fifth who we’re fostering at the moment,” Kristt said with a smile. “We also have seven birds. But the amazing thing that Amy and Pets Alive have done in the past week, is that they’ve taken in nearly 50 animals from Texas. They’ve been working really hard.”
Sitting back in his chair and folding his hands on his knee, Kristt concluded, “Everybody likes that pat on the back every now and again, and to be chosen for the Walter Rhulen Award, that pat couldn’t be any bigger. I like to give the proper amount of time and effort to everything that I do, so I’m very proud.