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Local businesses step up for town recreation
AREA — A town's recreation department provides events and activities that the entire community can enjoy.
What is less obvious is that the departments can only operate when business leaders within the community pitch in to help.
"If it wasn't for the community getting together and helping out with programs like that, there just wouldn't be any," said Pam Lovely, who chairs Oxford's recreation committee. "Towns just don't have the money to do these things. ... I think everybody is very, very appreciative of what these businesses do."
Dana Chandler, her counterpart in Paris, agrees.
"Without the business supporting the concerts and the art show in Moore Park, you don't have anything," he said. "A lot of people who don't realize how much the local businesses in town do to help the town."
Chandler runs one of the supportive local businesses himself, Chandler Funeral Homes.
Debra Partridge, Norway's recreation department director, says that none of the town's three ball fields would have been possible without the support of local businesses.
"We would have had to come up with $50,000 for one ball field," she said, "and we just don't have it. ... I just don't know where the money would have come from."
Partridge's experience is that a community ball field is a community effort.
"So many businesses helped in kind with machinery and labor for the ball fields," she said. "There are so many over the years that have donated."
Partridge says that she relies heavily on the support of the Norway business community.
"The Main Street businesses are great," she says. "One thing that's great is that I can just walk down Main Street and get what I need."
Lovely says that Modern Woodmen has been a big supporter of the town's recreational activities.
Over the years, says Lovely, the company has made donations that have allowed the department to build a concession stand at Pismo Beach, and to succeed in a variety of landscaping projects.
Modern Woodmen does considerable amounts of cash donations, says Lovely, but representatives also roll up their sleeves when the time comes.
"A lot of what they do is hands-on projects," she said.
Lovely says that Oxford's Building Solutions on King Street has been a huge asset to the town's recreation department, beginning with the building of the town's community center.
"They're the ones that built the ice skating rink," said Lovely. "They fixed up the old police station. They really did an awful lot for us and either did it at cost or very minimal."
Joseph Casalinova, Building Solutions president, says that the company is motivated by a sense of responsibility to a shared community.
"Building Solutions feels a sense of responsibility and pride in helping the Town and the Oxford Recreation Committee," said Casalinova. "We had knowledge, equipment, labor and materials that could be donated to the cause."
Casalinova said that the group effort is central to the area's identity.
"Each year, a little more can be done as the community pitches in to continue creating and improving its own recreation center for the lifeblood of the heart of our little community," he said.
Sometimes the businesses that help are large, says Partridge. New Balance, she said, is a "huge supporter," and has enabled the town to build a playground park and a fitness trail.
Other huge supporters include Norway Savings Bank, and Hannaford, says Partridge.
Sometimes the businesses are smaller.
Partridge named Agren Appliances, RE Lowell Lumber, Goin' Postal, Double-T Fence, Hobbs Lucky Lanes, Fare Share Co-op, the Lajos Matolcsy Arts Center, the Sun Journal, and the Advertiser Democrat.
"There have just been so many," said Partridge. "I know I'm leaving so many out."
Sometimes, says Partridge, the support comes not from donations or discounts, but from exemplary customer service.
"I called Record Lumber just yesterday," she said. "We were short on picnic tables and needed four. Within two and a half hours, they delivered them. They walked around and put them exactly where I wanted them. Now that's service."
Chandler says that, when New Balance showed generosity in donating a set of playground equipment for the park, scores of volunteers from local businesses came together to pitch in on the installation.
"About 60 people from businesses showed up that day," said Chandler. "We had it all up by 2:30. The manufacturer representative [who was there to supervise the installation] said 'I've never seen it go up so quick. You people are incredible.'"
Chandler says that some of the hometown heroes that help the Paris Recreation Department include contractors Gerald Kilgore and Kalvin Mason; Norway Savings Bank, Park Street Press, the Littlefield Greenhouse, Rainbow Federal Credit Union, W.J. Wheeler Insurance Co., Bessey Motors and, of course, his Chandler Funeral Home.
Usually, local businesses are repaid only with words of gratitude, and the satisfaction of seeing children enjoying the fruits of their labors.
Occasionally, a recreation department is able to make the gratitude more tangible, as was the case with Norway's Don Butters, owner of Don Butters Excavation.
"We named the baseball field the Don Butters Field," said Partridge. "That's how big his contribution was."
Partridge said that Butters, who passed away in 2007, was not only a big personal supporter, but that he also helped her to network with other businesses that were willing to lend a helping hand.
Casalinova says that his company is "honored" to be a part of the community.
"This community is our home," he said.
Chandler says that the willingness of local businesses to help their communities is part of what makes rural Maine a great place to live.
"It's small-town life," said Chandler. "Everybody likes to help everybody else. I think that's why we all do it. Isn't that why you live here?"