Yesterday was Election Day across the country, and I went to the Winthrop Town Office to do my civic duty by voting. My name was on the ballot—I was running for a trustee position at Bailey Public Library—and it’s the first time I’ve ever voted for myself. To top off the day, I agreed to help staff the Keep Winthrop Warm table, which had a big jar for donations as well as lots of goodies on hand to give as a thank-you to donors. Keep Winthrop Warm is, well, an organization that provides fuel assistance to Winthrop residents who are in need. Despite climate change, Maine winters are still long and cold. With the price of fuel going ever upward, and salaries remaining flat, the cost of heating a home has become a significant expense. Not long ago, when my husband was at the grocery store, he overheard a conversation where one person wondered how he was ever going to afford to heat his home this winter. So I was happy to help with this project, which combined food with staying warm, two essentials.
All the goodies were homemade, and they included blueberry muffins, snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry cake, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate-frosted brownies. As I sat at this table filled with treats, I showed remarkable restraint by eating only one small piece of blueberry cake, which was everything blueberry cake should be—moist, light, and loaded with blueberries. Oh, how I love blueberry cake.
The Keep Winthrop Warm table was right outside the big room at the town office where people were voting, and even though it was an off-off year for elections, it seemed to me that voter turnout was brisk. (Today, on the town of Winthrop’s website, my suspicions were confirmed: voter turnout was 45 percent.) As I sat at the table, I noted with interest the number of people who stopped to donate and the number of people who either walked by without noticing us or who flat-out refused to donate. Some people sheepishly admitted they didn’t have any money on them, a believable statement in this era of credit and debit cards. Other people had money in their cars and came back to give us a donation.
Priscilla Jenkins, who is on the Keep Winthrop Warm committee, was with me at the table, and I asked her what she thought the percentage was of people who donated. “When you take into account the people who don’t notice us and the people who don’t give, I’d say about one-third of the voters donate,” she answered.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this is par for the course for such organizations as Keep Winthrop Warm. Still, by the time I left at 2:00 P.M., the big jar was nearly full, and the generosity of that one-third will go a long way to help heat the homes of Winthrop residents who are in need.
And, as it turned out, I was indeed elected to be a trustee of the library, a place that is very dear to my heart. I will certainly do my best to help the library thrive in these tough economic times.
Addendum—11/10/11: Today, I went for a walk and had lunch with my friend Debbie Maddi. When I spoke about the people who would not donate to the Keep Winthrop Warm fund, she said to me, “You know, times are hard, and some people have nothing to spare, not even a dollar. You can’t tell by their clothes how people are doing, especially if they’ve just been laid off.” Yes, indeed. Important words to keep in mind.