Pastor collects donated fishing equipment for local children

  • Ken Whitson of New Ipswich fixes fishing rods in his basement to provide children in the community free fishing equipment. Courtesy photo—

  • Ken Whitson of New Ipswich fixes fishing rods in his basement to provide children in the community free fishing equipment. Courtesy photos

  • Pastor Ken Whitson of the New Ipswich Congregational Church is an avid fisherman. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/1/2020 12:41:13 PM

Teach a man to fish and he’ll never be hungry. Teach a kid to fish, and they’ll never be bored.

Pastor Ken Whitson of the New Ipswich Congregational Church is an avid fisherman himself, a hobby he’s cultivated since he was a young boy. This summer, as he watched many of the traditional sporting activities canceled due to COVID-19, he said it became a goal to put a fishing rod in the hands of any child that wanted one.

“It’s been a lifelong thing for me, of never being able to say, ‘I’m bored,’ because I could always go fishing,” Whitson said. “It’s something that’s easy for kids to do.”

Whitson said the idea really came from a young family on Water Loom Pond, whose 3-year-old, Henry Heaphy, didn’t have a pole. Whitson ribbed his parents that giving a kid access to a pond and not a fishing pole was an act of cruelty, and set about securing a pole for the boy.

He said he noticed that local stores were all but out of children’s fishing equipment, and what was out there was expensive, particularly for families trying to outfit more than one child.

Whitson, as a result of his long-time love of fishing, said he knows how to repair and outfit fishing rods. So he put out the call, asking his congregation and any members of the public who have unused fishing poles or equipment to consider donating them.

The call was answered.

Whitson collected donations of about 60 poles from the community, plus a $200 donation for equipment and reels and line. Some had barely been used, and some needed a little tender loving care to be brought up to snuff. Whitson has a set-up in his basement to repair rods, and those that came in without a reel or needing new fishing line, he repaired them himself.

Either way, he said, the rod is ready to go by the time it ends up with its new owner.

“It’s completely ready to fish the moment we hand it to him or her,” Whitson said.

The church has so far given away about 30 rods to children this summer. The Heaphy family has reported that 3-year-old Henry is now a “master fisherman” after he was able to catch a pickerel with a bare hook, Whitson said. And that’s the kind of experience he wants kids to have.

Whitson said while dozens of rods have already been given out, he still has a plethora of donations in his basement awaiting repairs. He said as the cold weather moves in, he’s prepared to make those needed repairs over the winter, and ready a “tackle shop” for children to browse in the spring, ideally just before the town’s annual children’s fishing derby. For vastly reduced prices – a few dollars – children can purchase poles, as well as some of the other fishing accoutrements he’s gathered from donations, such as tackle boxes, bait and even a depth finder.

“It gives them ownership of their own equipment, something they can buy with their own money,” Whitson said.

Each, he said, also comes with a free-of-charge “Pastor Ken guarantee,” that if the rod ever breaks or jams, he’ll get it in working order again.

Donations of fishing equipment can be dropped off at the New Ipswich Congregational Church. Donations can be mailed to the church with checks made out to the New Ipswich Congregational Church. 

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