Quechee is home to some of the most dynamic people you will ever meet. Some are retired after impressive careers with business, government or non-profits. Some have poured their energies into raising children. Many now donate their time and considerable talents to local organizations in need of assistance. Having experienced executives joining local Boards means the world to small (or even major) non-profits, and many Quechee residents engage in on their feet volunteering as well. The most consistent comment they make on their involvement is something along the lines of “I get so much out of it.”
John Ferney learned about volunteering from watching his mother. As an adult, he says, “We’ve always lived in small towns, and there was church and Little League. People tend to come to Quechee for the environment and the amenities, but they stay for the sense of community. I don’t know how people can stay here and not volunteer!,” he says. John has worked with SCORE and is currently on the board of Headrest, which provides addiction and crisis services.
QLLA and CHaD
Quechee’s seriousness about volunteering shows in QLLA Charities, the giving arm of the homeowner’s association. (Many volunteer options are listed in The Club/Volunteering menu at quecheeclub.com/) About 35-years ago the club held a pro-am golf tournament as its first fundraiser with the profits going to local hospitals. Three or four years later, CHaD (Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock) became the major recipient of the group’s efforts. Two major annual events, the golf tournament and the gala, help to meet the goal of donating $100,000 each year. “We started putting the first $50,000 towards an endowment,” says Sharin Luti, vice president of QLLA Charities. Support also goes to CAPP, which is a child advocacy program within CHaD. Gail Ferney, president of QLLA Charities explains, “If a child comes in with a broken arm insurance will pay the expenses. But, if there are questions about possible abuse that could be answered by a body scan insurance won’t pay.” QLLA’s support bridges this gap.
Many Quechee people have worked on the fundraisers; some of the heaviest lifters are Ferney, Luti, Marty Whitney and Diane Ames. They are all examples of how deeply involved Quechee residents can become. “I moved to Quechee 11 and a half years ago, and I didn’t know anyone,” Ames recalls. “I said, ‘What’s David’s House?’ and Rochelle heard me. [Rochelle Berliner, now in Florida, was for years a mainstay of the hostel for families of hospitalized children.] Right after that, it was the library. Then Sharin found me [for CHaD], and I served on the QLLA Charities Board. And I help with consignment at [Norwich’s] Nearly New Sale. And run the Upper Valley Fuel Group,” a buying club for heating fuel.
CHaD relies not only Quechee’s large financial contribution but also on the volunteers. “They mean everything,” says Hilary Hubbard, of CHaD’s Community Relations Department. “They are just the most wonderful group of people. They go above and beyond every year for CHaD, and their passion and dedication inspire all of us.” Jaye Olmstead, the executive director of David’s House has similar praise: “Our Quechee crew—oh, they’re the best. An amazing group, very giving of time, resources, expertise. They volunteer in the House, and on committees—even the governance committee. They host get-togethers in their homes so that David’s House people can talk about the program. A very generous community! The impact is beyond words.”
Helping Those Who Served
Patt Taylor’s given name was Pattee, but “I dropped the ‘ee’ when I was a kid. I didn’t want to be the boy named Sue!,” he explains. He volunteered with youth hockey as his kids grew, and has served on the QLLA Board, including as president. But his main interest is Friends of Veterans, based in White River Junction, which helps homeless veterans. “Homelessness is worse for veterans than for the general population,” says Taylor. “And it’s worse in Vermont and New Hampshire because we have a greater percent of the population in the military” especially in the National Guard and Reserves. “Often they have no job to come back to,” he says, “and units just got called up again.” One third of homeless men are veterans. Taylor was in the Air Force, flying C-130s in Viet Nam and elsewhere. “I spent five years in the military, and I’ve seen things that make me want to help vets.” He adds an understatement, “Life is not always good in the military.”
Taylor also serves on the board of a court diversion program. “It’s a window on a different world,” he says. Another project, a point of pride, is training his young Golden Retriever as a therapy dog. The certification test was a four hour grueling routine, requiring such feats as walking over human food without snatching any (lest it include dropped pills) and greeting someone without reacting to a noisy crowd showing up.
Shorter Projects or Long Haul?
Some enjoy long-term commitment to a project. Alice Goldstein has volunteered for a regular shift for 12 years at the Quechee Library, longer than she held her two longest paid jobs (7 and 8 years). “For me, it’s my love of books and my love of the place. It’s a way to interact with lots of people. Kids who began story hour with me are now in college.” Library Director Kate Schaal appreciates Goldstein’s contributions at the busy Wednesday morning story time. “She’s great with young families and the bustle of that time of day.” She adds, “The library has grown tremendously in recent years, and we rely so much on the contributions of volunteers. We’re lucky that way.”
Long reliability like Goldstein’s cannot be overvalued in keeping things running; many finite projects also need doing. Lisa Lacasse firmly prefers this category. She founded the Quechee Area Camera Club (QACC) in the first flush of her enthusiasm as she took up photography. She remembers letting QACC work slide at Christmas time “because I was busy. But, I posted some small project to work on and I got a note from someone saying ‘Thank you so much. I’m here alone and this gives me something to occupy me.’”
Like many Quechee residents, Lacasse was heavily involved in Irene relief efforts. Helping prepare food for distribution, she was told to slice quick breads and wrap a slice for each family. “I went home and called a few people and we soon had scores of quick breads,” she says. Naturally the meals ran mostly to lasagna, soups and casseroles. “I wanted to give them something they could sink their teeth into,” she recalls. With ingredients donated by the Quechee Club, and using the club kitchen on Monday night, Lacasse and a team of QLLA folks prepared chicken legs for the dozens of people on the distribution route. It was so much fun that they did it again.
Luti volunteers for multiple projects. “CHaD’s probably the biggest,” she says, “but I’m also on the board of WISE (Women’s Information Service), and the executive committee, and I did outreach for Dismas House (prisoner re-entry), making sure there were quilts for each bedroom. I helped get the house going.
“Many volunteers have sad stories, often about kids. I don’t—I have a fortunate life, and when you have a fortunate life you give back,” she explains. Her son Brian is in the military, and has served two terms in Afghanistan and Iraq. After receiving a few packages from her, he wrote that cookies were great, but the real need was things for kids, like soccer balls. And the soldiers need warm socks, he added. Luti fired up her network of friends, and donations poured in, along with money for shipping and letters thanking soldiers. Degrees of separation fell away; one donor wrote “I’m a friend of someone who knows Brian Luti’s mother.” At the receiving end Brian had to start going out to other units to distribute the gifts.
“When my son went into ROTC, of course I didn’t want him in harm’s way,” Luti recalls. “We’ve always been close. He sat me down to explain, ‘You always told us we should give back. Well, this is what I can do.’ For his ROTC scholarship he wrote an essay about how wonderful the U.S. is.”
And Again, the Rewards
Chris Whitney moved up from Massachusetts in 2002. “I really enjoy volunteering,” she says. “I find I get the biggest reward from it—it just makes me feel good. There are so many people out there… and I’ve been so blessed: health, shelter over my head, family. We tend to stay in our own circle; volunteering gives me a reality base.” She found her niche at David’s House. Whitney recalls a family calling from the car as they followed the ambulance their child was in. Could David’s House put them up that night? “There’s nothing more rewarding than saying Yes,” she says. “It still gives me goose bumps.”