by Margaret Ottinger,
The holidays are a good time to reflect on one blessing of living in Shelburne. Certainly people are heading to malls and local businesses with holiday shopping in mind. However, many Shelburne citizens have mobilized to meet social service needs in our community during this holiday season. What isn’t readily apparent is that there are many in our community who can’t meet basic living needs, let alone plan for holiday giving. Affordable housing shortages and wages that don’t keep pace with expenses mean the needs of families and individuals are as great as they’ve ever been.
It might be tempting to feel at a loss in the face of these challenges. Luckily, we are a mobilized, service-minded town that will go to great lengths to help those who are struggling. Local efforts are being done without the benefit of large media campaigns to spread news on the needs, nor with savvy means to recognize volunteers. Instead, citizens simply hear of the need, and step up to help.
The evidence can be found numerous places. At the forefront of holiday giving efforts are the Shelburne Food Shelf and our local faith communities. As Val Martel explained in the Shelburne News several weeks ago, she and local churches and other groups began organizing long before Thanksgiving, and have been working daily on initiatives. The Shelburne Community School (SCS) is a critical partner in identifying families in need and in serving as a liaison between families and service groups.
The can-do attitude is evident in other ways. At a meeting earlier this year, the Shelburne Social Services Committee (SSSC) learned from the United Way of Chittenden County that Shelburne employees are among the most generous contributors to the United Way Campaign each year. Remember the post on Front Porch Forum (FPF) over the summer about a project to make and distribute art materials to children at Harbor Place? Responses indicated just how willing neighbors are to pitch in and help. It wasn’t the first time a post on FPF generated a quick, decisive response; just recently we learned of another initiative at One Mitten Farm to distribute cold weather gear, and yet another to support seniors in the community. Nearly every church in Shelburne sponsored “giving trees” for needy families. SCS staff and students coordinate a food drive so children have food over the long holiday break when there’s no school lunch program. There are undoubtedly many more examples.
We can take pride in the generous spirit found in our town. The SSSC has seen examples of this spirit again and again over the past 18 months that it’s been in existence. Members of the committee would like to express gratitude for the groups and individuals who create and maintain our community safety net. We look forward to the new year and more opportunities to serve.