The early spring season, with its awakening of color and promise of warmer times, is a reminder of the area’s natural beauty and the possibilities ahead. Several stories of good deeds among us we’ve reported lately bring similar reward, providing just a few of the many snapshots of how the better natures of people in this region continue to bloom despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic.
Consider the outpouring of support for the family of Sheila and Jeff Domingue, who lost their Hinsdale home to a devastating fire on Friday, April 9. Though they and their four children and two dogs are safe, they lost virtually all else to the blaze. Yet by the following Wednesday, a crowdfunding campaign launched on their behalf by a friend and a colleague had blown through its target, with over 100 donors contributing close to double the $4,000 goal. Additionally heartwarming, one of the organizers, Rachel Rondeau, reported the Domingues have asked that contributions of money be discontinued “so that others in need may receive the help that may have gone to them.”
Their experience echoes an earlier community effort to support Candice and Brandon Wilber, who lost everything after their apartment building on Marlboro Street in Keene caught fire in early March. A friend, Chelsea Gauthier, who started an online fundraiser for the Wilbers, reported that within just a few days the donations, then from over 60 people, were coming in at such a pace that the fund could be expanded to also assist others whose apartments were damaged in the fire.
Then there’s the innovative crowdsourcing initiative to provide “homegrown stimulus” to local restaurants, which have so struggled during the pandemic. Organized in January by The Local Crowd Monadnock fundraising organization, the Culinary Journeys scholarship program run by the Cheshire Career Center and the Brattleboro nonprofit Food Connects, the Monadnock Restaurant Project uses community support to purchase and distribute gift cards to restaurants. Customer spending tends to exceed a card’s value, so the cards have a multiplier effect that injects an additional stimulus. The initiative has raised more than $30,000 from its campaign. With support from individuals and many businesses alike (for disclosure purposes, we note The Sentinel is one), the project has done so well that it last week announced a second round of gift card distribution that now includes area restaurants outside as well as in Keene.
And, as a reminder of purely individual, day-to-day commitment and dedication came last week’s announcement the N.H. Association of School Principals has named Mount Caesar Elementary School’s Missy Suarez the top elementary school principal among those at all the state’s public, charter and private schools. Though the award is certainly testament to Suarez’s many accomplishments during her seven years heading the Swanzey Center school, including her innovative initiatives to ease kindergartners’ transition to public education, the recognition is especially fitting at a time when educators have faced previously unimagined obstacles in responding to the pandemic.
In mentioning only these few, very recent instances, we know there are many others, mostly under the radar, that highlight the community spirit that has continued to flower in the Monadnock Region over the past year of the pandemic, no matter what the season. To help shine some light on them we, too, have turned to what might also be called crowdsourcing and are asking area residents to nominate people whose actions, kindness and initiative since the pandemic’s onset more than a year ago have made a meaningful impact. Called “Everyday Heroes,” the aim is to recognize area individuals and groups in the categories of first responders and medical professionals, volunteers, teachers and frontline workers by posting the nominations online and producing in June a special publication naming them and profiling four in each category whom the community feels particularly stand out.
Nominations can be submitted until April 28 at www.sentinelsource.com/everyday_heroes, and already many have been submitted and can be viewed there.
A sense for how much people in the region have been selflessly stepping up for the rest of us during the pandemic is apparent by scrolling through the supporting nomination statements already posted. Doing so should certainly reaffirm just how vibrant community spirit in this region has remained through the pandemic.