Our communities are filled with local heroes, and thanks to Wayne Davis of Lakeside Loft, I’ve been inspired to encourage you to recognize and write about the heroes in your town.
Wayne came to me for help and advice after writing a story titled, “Mount Vernon’s Heroes.” He asked me to edit his story and help him publish it. That was a real pleasure, and his story was published in the April edition of our town newsletter. Now, Wayne and I are encouraging others in Mount Vernon to write their own stories about local heroes, and we’re hoping this initiative spreads to towns all over Maine, including yours.
Here’s a little bit from Wayne’s story, to give you some idea of how to do this:
“When I purchased ‘Ray’s Garage’ in 2003, I had no idea of the inherent challenges to come: no plumbing, electricity, heating or even walls, and I had no plan. I was blind to the impossible mess but happy to have a new place to work in and call my own.
“I was quickly overcome with the magnitude of what I’d undertaken. And then Stan Hapeman drove by and said, ‘Jump in!’ He drove me around Mount Vernon and introduced me to Ralph Hopkins who became my source for tons of quality and affordable lumber and who also built a beautiful stair case, and Sid Smith who became my source of advice on landscaping, sewage system and much more.
“Sid passed me on to Tunny Leighton for smaller jobs. Tunny said his grandson Eric Dunn might help. Eric worked his artistic magic on every aspect of our present home/business. Eric worked with Erik Groenhout to diagnose a dangerous foundation failure and together, they rebuilt a beautiful deck as well as a stylish new kitchen.
“From all that early help my wife and I were able to create a business, The Lakeside Loft guest house. We’ve received many referrals from folks like the Berrys, the Robinsons and the Gleichenhouses. Paul Crockett helped create a communication system and wouldn’t accept any payment, thus giving me a desire to contribute to the community.
“Russell Libby asked me to participate on two town projects and through these eyes, I began to discover and appreciate the diverse contributions of so many others; assistance that Betty White provided for many families at the Food Bank; a local library that is about so much more than books via Mary Ann, Alice, Anne and others.
“When I shared some of this with Mary Ann Libby she said, ‘Maybe everyone is heroic in one or more ways.’ It’s this sense of a working, caring village that I think our guests find charming and inspiring in addition to the welcome they receive when they arrive to relax and recreate or visit family in the area. I’ve gradually discovered that a great community is in no way accidental. It is the numerous contributions of many people over time that create the fabric which shapes who we are and connects into the tapestry that is uniquely Mt. Vernon. We are so proud and pleased to have retired and begun a new life/career in Mt. Vernon.”
Residents of West Gardiner are also on the right track with their wonderful quarterly newsletter, The Weathervane. Volunteers write and publish the newsletter that features locally written stories about people, organizations and events in their town.
In the two editions I read recently, I especially enjoyed the stories about new residents in a regular column titled, “Welcome to West Gardiner.” There’s also an article in each issue about residents who have lived in town a long time.
Mike Wing’s stories about wild critters are very entertaining. In the winter edition, high school senior Eli Fish wrote a terrific story about the great education kids from his town have received. “I think most of us know that none of us would be where we are without the support and encouragement of our West Gardiner community. A big thank you from all of us to you!” he wrote.
Susan Emmett’s column about a women’s group, The Current Events Club, founded in 1892, was interesting, as were the profiles of local veterans. And there were stories about the Civil Rights Club and the West Gardiner Friendly Neighbors group, with monthly free lunches at the fire station. Yes, this is a caring community.
And my friend Gary Crocker wrote a really funny story, which I have heard him tell, of an old couple who ran into a moose but continued on, in their battered vehicle, because they’d just been to the grocery store and purchased ice cream that they needed to get home before it melted!
You are encouraged to start a quarterly newsletter in your town, and include in it some stories of local heroes. And I’d love to get a copy!