Column: There’s much to be thankful for this season

This is the time of year when we focus on thanksgiving. What an idea — a holiday that focuses on gratitude. And for good reason: This simple attitude benefits us on a social, emotional, intellectual and physical level. When I am thankful I feel better, smile more and people like to be around me. No doubt it is a challenging time for all of us, but let me tell you what I am thankful for at The River Center this year.

I am thankful for all the volunteers who help in so many ways at The River Center. I am thankful for the spellers who rally their teams at our annual Community Spelling Bee. I am thankful for the folks from the Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative that gave two of their Saturdays to work on weatherization projects in our building. They dug a trench for better drainage, squeezed into claustrophobic spaces to insulate air leaks and battled cobwebs and cold to save energy and dollars. I am thankful for volunteers who answer the phone during our staff meetings. I am so grateful for the facilities volunteers who will answer my SOS calls when the building is cold or the locks don’t work. I am thankful for the volunteers who come to prepare taxes for their neighbors for free and thankful there are people on the planet who really enjoy doing taxes.

I am thankful for the many artists who have displayed their beautiful art in our exhibit space. I am thankful for the person who brings in flowers every week. It makes our environment welcoming and warm for the people we serve, and us.

I am so thankful for the many volunteers who have worked on the new wood bank this year. We have donors who have given wood to the wood bank: Some have given standing trees, some have donated wood already cut and ready to burn. We have volunteers who have cut down those donated trees and then cut, split, transported and stacked the wood in our woodshed behind The River Center. Some volunteers with trucks and trailers help haul the wood, others help me figure out procedures for distributing the wood that has been so carefully prepared. What an encouragement to see the trucks delivering the wood, to watch teens and retirees working side by side stacking it, to look out my office window and see the ingenious homemade dump trailer unloading yet another load. Because of these volunteers, many families will get help keeping warm this winter.

I am thankful for the board of trustees of the River Center. This group of volunteers commits itself to oversee the fiscal, legal and programmatic integrity of this nonprofit organization. They commit many hours creating our long-term strategic plans, writing grants and supporting the work of The River Center. Thank you to Kim Graham, Kevin McElhinney, Tina Kriebel, Tom Weber, Heather McKernan, and to our newest member, Craig Fraley. And a special thank you to former board member Audrey White.

I am thankful for the staff at The River Center. These individuals make the work of The River Center happen. They work with children, they send out beautiful email newsletters, they answer the phone, help job-seekers, facilitate parenting groups, help make community connections, pay our bills, visit pregnant teens, hold your babies, and give you their full attention. I have found the staff to be passionate, dedicated and ready to serve this community. Thank you to Donna Brand, Bonnie Harris, Karen Johnson, Wendy Hill, Carol Lunan, Amy McGee, Kim Robbins, Nisa Simila, Kelli Tourgee, Liz Lorvig and Anita Mendes. You are a fine team and it is an honor to work with you all.

And finally, I am thankful for a community that supports The River Center with its finances. Many of you made contributions to The River Center through the Give a Little, Help a Lot campaign this summer. Others wrote checks in response to our appeal letter. I am thankful for the donor who sent a $100 check after reading last month’s column about the loss of funding for the home visiting program for young moms and their babies. I am thankful that the Monadnock United Way supported the work of The River Center and for all of you who give to that organization so they can in turn support us. I am thankful for every dollar that comes to us from our supporters. Indeed, this is a community-supported effort of neighbors helping neighbors.

So, this Thanksgiving season it’s not hard to find so much to be grateful for. I feel better already, don’t you?

Margaret Nelson is the executive director of The River Center in Peterborough.

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