Tuesday, February 23, 2010

View From The Bridge 2-24-2010

“VIEW from the BRIDGE”
by Muncie

In reply to the letter to the Editor in last week’s River Press, I would like to express a few thoughts. Have you ever heard the phrase, “To have a friend, you have to be a friend?” What is a friend? Some of the definitions are a well-wisher, patron, or supporter; one who is on good terms with another; inclined to approve, help, or support; kind. In my definition, it is someone who would help you in any way possible in your time of need. That is my feeling about Fort Benton.

I would rather think of people as groups of friends, instead of cliques, who share a common interest. We have eight denominations of Churches; Veterans groups are the American Legion Post #26, A.L. & their Auxiliary, VFW Post #4047 and their Mil O. Ronning Auxiliary#4047, Benton Lodge #25 AF & AM, Bethany Chapter #42, Benton Lodge #59, Rebecca’s Lodge #105, Knights of Columbus, General Federation of Women’s Club (which includes Summer Celebration Committee,) Lions Club, Community Improvement Association, Chouteau County Performing Arts, Cancer Support Group, River and Plains Society, Friends of the Library, Joel Overholser Research Center, Garden Club, Chouteau County Fair Board, Volunteer Fire Department, Emergency Medical Service (E.M.S.,) Crime Stoppers, Chouteau County Rifle League, Golden Age Senior Center, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Tree Board(I hope I didn’t miss any and if so please call me on it.) In addition, we have Adult Education Classes, Bible Study Classes, Senior Women Exercise Classes, Yoga Classes, Adult Education Classes, Bowling Leagues, Dart Players, Bunco Players, and if you cannot find something to get involved in, there is definitely a problem.

Naturally, the people in these groups seek out others who are interested in their projects. You should get involved in order to make friends and become part of the community. Shame on us if we have not invited you to join our groups. But then, how do we know who you are if you make no effort to get involved.

I would hope that I am on the majority side of believing that Fort Benton does not have cliques. I was told before I moved from Great Falls almost 17 years ago that Fort Benton had cliques. I never experienced it. I truly feel that I was accepted. I began going to Council meetings soon after I arrived. I wanted to know what was going on in the wonderful little town to which I had moved. I was on an Environmental Review Board under the City Council in Michigan for five years prior to moving to Montana. I had come from an area of 4,000,000 people. I detested freeway traffic, crowded shopping areas, newspapers full of crimes, having to lock my car and home, and just in general feeling claustrophobic.

In Fort Benton, one could get involved and work on any problems they see. Working with City Hall and the Real Estate people, we (the town’s people) can learn of newcomers. It could be made clear if newcomers do or do not want to be contacted. At one time, there was a Welcome Wagon here in town and I do not know what happened to that project. I would like to know what your thoughts are on this subject. It has been discussed many times over the years. Do we have a volunteer who would be willing to work on this project?

Yes, Fort Benton has become known as a great retirement town and yes, there are not many employment opportunities for young people. However, there are many opportunities to get involved.

The General Federation of Women’s Club Fort Benton has many young women who have joined in recent years and they have been such as asset to the Club. Their precious babies and young children are brought to the meetings and were watched by one of the mothers during the meeting. That meant that particular mother would miss the meeting. They came up with a solution and hired a young sitter who does an excellent job (and Mom is not too far away.)

I have talked with many people in town this week and one of the points that came up with each conversation was that every town has these kinds of problems. In a small town like ours, it is more noticeable. Everyone has opinions about what is being done and what can be done. Perhaps a Town Hall Meeting would be the answer to let those that are in attendance make suggestions to make our town more like you would want it to be.

The problems that were discussed in the “Letter to the Editor”…that our leadership be more engaging, open and take action. Why should these problems be left to our leadership? Who are our leaders? Is it the Mayor, the City Council, the presidents of all the associations, the ministers of our churches, and others in high positions expected to be the leaders? No, I do not think so, it is up to the residents to step up and let it be known what they want. I have seen overworked leaders in this community. Projects seem to fall to the same people repeatedly. A saying goes, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” However, those busy persons cannot do everything and they are aging. It is not as easy to get things done, as it was when we were young. We need the young people to step up and take over some of the responsibilities. You young people can appreciate that we seniors can no longer add to the population of this community (Muncie joke.) It is up to you.

These comments are not to place blame. The letter was a revelation long overdue. I have urged many times for residents to go to Council meetings. Many times, I was the only one in attendance. People only attend when they want something done. They have no idea what is going on, what ordinances are being passed or pat the Mayor and Council on the back for getting a job done.

I could go on and on about the projects that have been accomplished since I moved here. Fort Benton has grown in spirit if not in size. I wish that I could have conversation with the young people who are moving out of town. I would like to know exactly what they are feeling and why they are giving up on Fort Benton. Take the time to go to the Inter-net and check out “Florida family lured by N.D. town moving back to Miami.” There are always two sides to every story. Enough already!

I am going to blow the Golden Age Center’s horn because I know that they would not do it for themselves. I have many times urged more participation in the Center’s fundraisers. Those are Pie Day (third Friday of the month,) Bake Sales (often,) and Flea Markets. Do you have any idea what those fundraisers mean to the Center? Well, let me tell you. They have purchased a new hot water heater, a toaster, a refrigerator, beverage pitchers, a tall can opener, two card tables, a 100 cup coffeemaker, a food processor (bet that make the cooks happy,) an American Flag and pole, a deep cooker, and a floor sweeper.

You know, of course, how much work is involved in baking all those pies, baked goods for the bake sales, and the organization of a flea market. I could not even begin to count the hours in kind. Therefore, the next time the Center has a fundraiser, make an effort to support their activities. I will let you know time and date. You will be in that position yourself one day; time flies when you are having fun and its funny how time slips away. Go Seniors.

A month from today, give or take a little, spring arrives. There was a Garden Club meeting last Wednesday at noon in the Library. There were few in attendance but there was much discussion especially about a community garden. I was invited, because of my activity in “Adopt-a-Plot,” and I was very pleased when the Club adopted one of the plots that were begging to be adopted. There was a great deal of information about a Garden Club in Highwood in last week’s River Press. Fort Benton’s meeting was much the same and although I am not a gardener…there is so much to learn from others. I will let you know when the next meeting will be so just come and see what is going on with compost, seeds and getting down on your hands and knees.

By the way, I got a great suggestion this weekend about something I had written in my column concerning the lighting on the Old Bridge. I love those kind of suggestions (and I know someone is reading the “View”) and I welcome comments about something I missed or misquoted. Honest. Wishing you a great weekend and looking forward warmer days. God bless America and Fort Benton (we need all we can get.)