On Friday, March 15, organizers from the City of Gardiner, Gardiner Main Street, Gardiner Public Library, Kennebec Local Food Initiative, Johnson Hall, Rotary, and Boys and Girls Club gathered to recognize their volunteers and the spirit of community service as part of the Gardiner Heart and Soul project. One of the core values identified through Gardiner’s Heart and Soul project is Community Involvement and Volunteerism. Historically, each of the involved organizations has recognized its volunteers in various, unconnected ways. Several months ago, organizers of the Heart and Soul project saw an opportunity to celebrate together, and to build synergy between groups in the process.
“We’ve all got our oars in the water, and we’re all rowing very hard”, says Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street. “The key is to get them moving in the same direction at the same time.” Organizers recognize that there are many more organizations and individuals who engage in countless hours of volunteerism, and hope that in coming years, these groups will join in the celebration.
“The Heart and Soul project has allowed us to create a spark of an idea here. We hope that next year’s event will expand to include every group in the community, and culminate in a grand celebration at a much larger venue,” added Meg Carlson, Heart and Soul Project Coordinator.
Volunteers were packed into Johnson Hall for the inaugural event, filling the studio space nearly to capacity. Each organization took time to recognize specific volunteers, and to talk about ways to get involved.
Organizers asked each invitee to bring along a friend or family member who they thought would make a good volunteer. “Our strategic approach to build our core of volunteers is two fold; to strengthen our exisiting volunteers, and to inspire new prospects to get involved,” added Nate Rudy Community and Development Director for the City of Gardiner.
During the event, Wright expanded on the tactic for building capacity among the civic corps. Grant funds from the Orton Foundation will allow Gardiner Heart and Soul to offer – at no cost to participants – a series of trainings meant to expand interpersonal and leadership skills of engaged citizens. Throughout the evening, attendees were given the opportunity to help shape this curriculum by picking from a menu of nine possible sessions including Conflict Transformation and Negotiation, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Seminar, Managing Volunteers, Fundraising, Effective Meetings, Team Building, Building Context: Understanding the History and Culture of the Kennebec Valley, Dealing with Difficult People, and Communicating More Effectively. The trainings will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Preference will be given to those who currently work, live, or volunteer in Gardiner. Those who live in surrounding communities will be placed on a waiting list and admitted if the sessions do not fill. For more information about these events, call Gardiner Main Street at 582-3100 or visit growwithgardiner.net or gardinermainstreet.org.
Gardiner Rotary president John Shaw presented the inaugural Brian Rines Award for Community Service as part of the celebration to Logan Johnston, a long time, tireless advocate for Gardiner, and current City Councilor. In his presentation, Shaw recognized Brian’s lifetime of service before and during his tenure as Mayor of Gardiner before his passing in 2011. Shaw recognized Johnston for his years of community service in formal roles as a founding member of Johnson Hall, Trustee in the J.W. Robinson Trust, and the Library Board. Shaw shared personal stories of Johnston’s community ethic of equal importance outside of his formal roles; noting how many people Johnston has touched over the years as a reliable friend and mentor. Shaw drew connections between Johnston and Rines, noting the similarities between the two men in their strength of character and commitment to making Gardiner a better place for all.
In closing remarks, State Representative Gay Grant of South Gardiner spoke of her own recent decision to serve in the legislature, recognizing the sacrifice so many give in the community, and encouraging all to build on the spirit of Gardiner Heart and Soul to seize every opportunity to answer the call of civic duty.
Heart and Soul is a partnership between the City of Gardiner, Gardiner Main Street, Gardiner Board of Trade, and the Orton Family Foundation. Gardiner was awarded Grant funding from the foundation to develop a community-values based plan for strengthening the effectiveness of Gardiner’s Comprehensive Plan, and to build closer ties within the community. For more information, visit growwithgardiner.net.