Neighbors lend a hand in WascottPair an ideas man with a problem solver. Add in technology that keeps people linked with the push of a button and a growing web of volunteers. Stir in some enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude. Then watch the momentum build.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Pair an ideas man with a problem solver. Add in technology that keeps people linked with the push of a button and a growing web of volunteers. Stir in some enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude. Then watch the momentum build.
“Lots of good things are happening in Wascott,” said Sheryl Beglinger, many of them prompted by the new Neighbors Helping Neighbors network. Since its inception in August, the group has winterized approximately 250 houses in the Gordon/Minong/Wascott area, hosted a Christmas day dinner and began developing a Neighborhood Watch Program. And more ideas are brewing.
“We’re learning more and more about the needs of the community,” said Beglinger, who lives in Wascott.
The idea for Neighbors Helping Neighbors started with Beglinger and Dean Nesley, who serve together on the town’s Community Resource Committee. After kicking options around in committee, they formed the group to work on them.
“We’re not a nonprofit, not an organization,” Beglinger said. “We’re just a network of people.” They are linked through e-mail and bursting with ideas.
The first project, lofted by Nesley, was to “Winterize Wascott.” For 20 years, he’s known that putting plastic over windows cuts heating costs. Many Wascott residents live in older homes. With a high concentration of retirees in the area, many are also living on a fixed income.
Beglinger called a company to ask what kind of plastic and tape would work best. The company searched their warehouse and found some they could donate. In September, 570 three-window kits arrived at the Beglinger’s home.
“I could not believe it,” Nesley said. “It mushroomed.”
Ads in the Northwoods Shopper touted the free kits, but the best response came when members of Neighbors Helping Neighbors brought kits to local senior meal sites and food shelves.
“I could hardly get it in the door fast enough,” Nesley said.
One Gordon resident who received the window kits and help installing them called the program “absolutely wonderful.” In total, 568 kits were given away.
Nesley noted that residents should save the plastic they remove this spring so they can put it up again in the fall.
Fresh off the success of “Winterize Wascott,” the network started developing a Neighborhood Watch program. About 30 people showed up for an initial meeting in October.
“We’re a long way from Superior,” said Steve Trainor of Wascott, who is heading up the Neighborhood Watch team, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department budget is tight. “It’s important to get information back and forth. The neighborhood watch could help immensely with that.”
By dividing the town into regions and tapping into local lakes association phone lists, Beglinger said, the program can keep residents connected. People who are out of the area can have folks keep an eye on their home, Trainor said, and neighbors can check in on elderly residents to make sure they are OK. E-mail alerts could provide a heads-up when burglaries have occurred in the area and remind people of the next meeting.
“Everybody’s watching out for everybody else,” Trainor said.
Beglinger said she hoped that the Neighborhood Watch program, once up and running, could be expanded to encompass neighboring communities.
The next project was a Christmas meal. Volunteers cooked enough hams and turkeys, rolls and cookies for 100 hungry people.
“Then the blizzard came,” Beglinger said with a laugh. About two dozen people showed up Christmas Day at the town hall, she said, and “we had a ball.”
Leftovers and funds collected were later dropped off with a local family in need. Next year, Beglinger said, they will also offer rides to the meal.
While reaching out, members of Neighbors Helping Neighbors have deepened their local ties.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Beglinger said, and have met a lot of great people. “I now feel like a member of the community of Wascott.”
“You get to know your neighbors a little better,” Nesley said.
And the ideas keep coming. Members of Neighbors Helping Neighbors could provide energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs for Wascott residents. Volunteers could plant flowers around the town hall or set up a playground. Members of the town – which has 900 voting members – could participate in a weight loss competition. The group gives e-mail updates on projects. Volunteers can choose to join in or sit this one out.
The group is riding a tide of enthusiasm and success.
“When people work together, you can get a lot done,” Nesley said. “Any community can do this.”
And everyone is welcome to join the network of volunteers.
“Anyone who wants to get involved can get involved,” Trainor said.
Nesley said he’d like to see more people asking “Hey, what can I do?”
Doing so can keep neighbors warm, protect communities and bring residents together.
“It turns the community into a network of people who care,” Beglinger said.
To join Neighbors Helping Neighbors, call Beglinger at (715) 466-2986 or e-mail Trainor at firstname.lastname@example.org.