Seven Days published a nice piece on June 28 titled “Green Mountain Meetups.” It was subtitled “Vermonters break bread, dance and forge communities in ‘third spaces’”.
Reporter Rachel Hellman observed that “civic ties in Vermont communities have been fraying because of a confluence of trends. Local schools are going dark as districts merge. Some general stores have closed, volunteers in local emergency services, senior care, and community events have dwindled … neighbors seem alienated from one another.”
Three women in Hardwick – Erica Heilman, Rose Friedman, and Tara Reese - noticed this unhappy trend and decided to do something about it. They transformed the shuttered Gazette weekly newspaper office into a community center and christened it the Civic Standard. Its motto is “people want to gather with their neighbors, both the ones they know and the ones they haven’t met yet.”
They’ve hoisted trivia nights, a haiku club, a games tournament, old time fiddle classes and hugely popular murder mystery dinner theatre production. According to the organizers, unlikely friendships have formed and inspired surprising conversations.”.
Hellman goes on to profile similar efforts in Berlin, Johnson, Cabot, Winooski, and Charlotte, and there are probably quite a few more.
In an age dominated by what seems to be growing alienation and political rhetoric that aims to divide, and excoriate and punish, let’s give a gold star to these homegrown efforts to rebuild community and shared purpose.