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This week the Chamber will host a small luncheon for our new board members. It's a way to get to know each individual, orient him/her to the organization, and share the vision for the future.

I commend these individuals for getting active in the community and our organization. All of them already have full-time jobs and are active in other areas of the town. I've had the opportunity to meet the new board members either at events, while attending other boards we sit on, or casually enjoying one of our fine dining establishments; they are a great group of people. They come with energy, enthusiasm and a vision of what the Chamber needs to become in order to serve all our members.

Civic engagement and community service is one of the finest displays of leadership and stewardship that I know of. Being able to jump in feet first, provide the talents, abilities and connections that move a community forward is both an act of helpfulness and sacrifice that I think volunteers should be proud of. Many times it requires an individual to not sleep in on a Saturday in order to make time for the organization; it also requires being able to attend a board meeting after already putting in an 8-hour day. It requires patience, teamwork, and putting the good of the whole above one's self interests.


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Why do it? I'll be honest, there have been times that I've wanted my community (whether it be college, work, town, city, etc.) to be everything I want it to be with little engagement from me. "I'm here. I'm paying rent or taxes. The community should do this or that; I want the community to be this or that." Unfortunately, I have neither found that works, nor have I found myself fulfilled with living like that. In every community that I've been a part of, sooner or later, I find myself gravitating towards helping and serving that community. Perhaps that's just how I'm wired, although sociologists might say that's how we're all wired. We need community, we are social beings; we need to feel like we're a part of something more, that we've created something better than when we first got there. If something is given to us (safety, shelter, amenities), it is a human reaction to want to give back.

I encourage you, the reader of this column, what are ways you can become active in your community if you are not yet? What areas need your expertise, your knowledge, your helpful hand or quick wit? Young people, where can we provide a new, modern and progressive look and design to move Bennington along? Where can we provide our tech-savviness or energy to ignite an organization with a vision for the future? Older folks, what organizations need your leadership, your attention to detail, and the wisdom that comes from many years in the workforce? I guarantee you that you will feel more engaged, more connected and have a greater sense of purpose if you participate on some level.

Thank you to those who are already engaged and active and helping to move Bennington forward. Thank you to those who have helped the Chamber over the many years with your leadership, volunteerism and stewardship. I'd like to publicly say welcome to our new board members; we look forward to working with you:

• Jonah Spivak

• Carson Thurber

• Susan Strano

• Sandy Stevens

• Maru Leon

• Betsy Bluto Woods

— Always Onward,

Matt Harrington is the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce