At your service: Aug. 11, 2010

It is the quiet hour on Main Street in Margaretville (that time after store closings and before people return to the restaurants for dinner). A spectre moves from place to place, weaving between the scant strollers and window-peepers. In each hand she carries water, nourishment for the flower barrels that line and lend their beauty to the lane they adorn.

But it is not really a ghost, though she seems to be invisible to those she passes. It is Sue Ihlo on her personal mission to keep her village attractive. Another time, change the name: it is Pam Grocholl in Fleischmanns, Fran Faulkner or Lisa Tait in New Kingston and others in Andes, Roxbury…

They are many, the individuals who transform those same barrels into little homes for a community of scarecrows in the fall, hang lights on trees and gazebos a few months later, flags come Memorial Day and then return to plant those barrels again. Throughout the year, they return again and again to ensure that the “charm” for which our area is known is a promise fulfilled.

There are many components that make a village a destination. The most vital are the businesses, restaurants and stores that form the core of the economy. Add to them the bed and breakfasts, inns and motels that serve as home away from home for visitors and you have the basis for a vibrant tourism site. However, the real attractions are the events that give people something to do when they get here. In this area, those events are largely the result of volunteer effort.

Whether we are talking about theatrical presentations, fairs, festivals and countless other entertainments, they would not happen were it not for the committed activities of people who spend the rest of the year preparing for something that happens once or twice. They also run their businesses, care for their families and help generate the events their neighbors plan.

None of these activities are conducted seeking praise for themselves. Instead they do the things they do because it will bring pleasure to others. They get their satisfaction from seeing the thing done well. Working behind the scenes, they are challenged by a desire to make this year’s event better than last year’s. More often than not, they succeed and come back to do it again.

While it is not gratitude that they seek, it is their due. They are us. There are very few who do not volunteer their efforts somewhere in the community. Some work to ensure the successful development of our young people in scouts or sports, others secure our spiritual health and many secure our very lives via the volunteer fire departments and EMS.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but a village is nothing more than a group of people who make the place they live something special. Those who make our villages special are each unique contributors. Though they must work in concert with others to achieve the larger goal, theirs are more often solo activities. Like those who water the flowers, they move about quietly, simply doing the thing that matters to them. We and our visitors reap the benefits of their efforts.