I've been thinking about ... Carroll County.
When I came to Carroll County in 1991 to work for the Trust Department of Carroll County Bank, I could not have foreseen what a happy move it would turn out to be. I loved my job in the Trust Department. They actually paid me to help people. Pay attention now, you might see a trend developing. I had a great boss who assumed I knew what I was doing until I were to prove otherwise. We were a very congenial group of co-workers, and I have kept many of them as friends to this day.
It soon dawned on me that Westminster was a good bit like my hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Yes, it's a bit colder up there and, yes, it's on a beautiful lake, but the commonalities began to stand out. In Burlington, the names are of French derivation; in Westminster, Germanic, but the people are the same — family-centered, community-oriented, kind-hearted and always ready to lend a hand.
We knew our friends' parents and grandparents and who their sisters married, how many children they had, and who moved "away." (Read that as anywhere south of Rutland, Vermont.) People in both places went to school with the guy who became mayor of the town, live on the same street as their representative in the state legislature, and go to the same church as their banker and the family that owns their favorite restaurant. There is a lot to be said for access. I wasn't a policy-making officer at the bank, but I knew the president's door was open to me if I had an idea or a problem. That kind of access is available here, and it is very important.
My job here at the Community Foundation can be summed up very simply: Help people. What makes it possible is the culture of this community. I try to meet and get to know as many people as possible, and I let them know they can call on me when they need help. I hope they all understand that goes both ways. I know people understand that even if I can't help, I probably will know someone who can. When a woman needs a second-level breast cancer exam and her insurance won't pay for it, I get a call from the county Health Department asking if we will kick in funds along with The Shepherd's Staff to make it happen. If a homeless 75-year-old veteran has permanent housing starting on Monday but today is Friday and it's 3:30 in the afternoon, our Department of Social Services knows that Community of Compassion, one of our funds, will step up.
I'm sure there will always be these small kindnesses to do, but we are also working with public officials, the school system, local businesses and wonderful individuals to address some of the issues that are at the core of some very big problems. Our beautiful community has been inundated by drugs. We have servicemen and women returning home with some serious injuries and PTSD. We need affordable housing and good jobs that can support a family. We have people with disabilities who want nothing more than to work and be productive, and on and on.
Let's all welcome Dec. 25 with "Merry Christmas" on our lips and greet the coming new year with hope in our hearts and an ambitious list of items to get done.
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Audrey Cimino is executive director of The Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.