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Neighbor to Neighbor

12/22/08 7:55AM By Henry Homeyer
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(HOST)  As part of VPR's continuing effort to explore the ways in which we help each other through hard times, commentator Henry Homeyer describes how his small town Reaches Out - Neighbor to Neighbor.

(HOMEYER) Cornish , New Hampshire is a sleepy town on the banks of the Connecticut River. It's much like small towns anywhere - full of hard working, well-intentioned people who look out for each other and lend a hand when needed.

So for example, my friend Linda told me that she has an unobtrusive system to know if her 85-year old neighbor across the street is okay. They agreed that if all is well, the neighbor puts up her window shade in the morning. If for some reason the shade stayed down, it would signal something amiss, and Linda would call or go visit.

Elsewhere, a woman's husband passed away and she was unable to use the snowblower to clear the driveway, so her neighbor across the street just started plowing it. He does it to be neighborly, and would never accept a penny for the service. I only know about this because I asked him about his frail neighbor, and who kept an eye on her. He admitted that he looks in on her and does little jobs - including the snowplowing.

About five years ago, a group of guys in Cornish decided that it would be nice to have a system in place to help the elderly and disabled. We started an informal group of a dozen men who were willing to do small jobs. We call ourselves Neighbor to Neighbor.

Most people over 80 should not be getting on step ladders - but some have no one to help. Now if a light bulb goes out on the stairs, or the battery on a smoke detector needs to be changed, the elderly in town know who to call - Neighbor to Neighbor.

Sometimes we do bigger projects, too. The town collects fallen trees by the road and brings them to the recycling center. We had a few work days this fall to cut the wood to stove size, split it, and stack it in a shed. Then it was distributed by the pick-up load to folks that needed it.

Cornish has a nice daily e-newsletter that keeps its cyber-connected citizens informed about what's going on in town. So when we were working on the firewood project, many non-members - male and female, young and old - turned up. At one point we had about 25 people cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. Others had baked cookies and brought them to the workers for a mid-morning treat.

When a resident of Cornish Flat passed away recently, the family offered her almost-new wheelchair ramp to anyone who needed it. Our men's group disconnected it. Then we loaded it on a trailer, and put it in place for someone else. No money was spent on this project, a dozen guys helped out, and it was done in a day.

And once a month the guys in Neighbor to Neighbor get together for a high-cholesterol, high-caffeine breakfast at a local greasy spoon. Officially we're there to discuss projects, but more often than not we're just there for the companionship.
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