By Charlotte Boynton
The volunteers of the horticulture committee and the Wright Landing committee care for Wright Landing, the public boat launch on Westport Island. The Wright Landing committee maintains the landing and the horticulture committee works to beautify the site. (Charlotte Boynton photo)
Volunteers have always been an important part of Westport Island town government, as with most towns and cities throughout the country. The week of April 12 to 18 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, the time for towns to show their appreciation to their volunteers.
Westport selectmen do not wait to recognize their volunteers once a year. Nearly every week during the town’s weekly selectmen’s meeting, the board will thank a volunteer for giving his or her time and talent to the town.
Westport Island has a population of less than 800 people, with a list of over 80 volunteers serving on the town boards, committees, commissions, and nonprofit organizations. Many functions performed by these volunteers would cost the town a great deal of money, according to town selectmen.
As an example, the Wright Landing committee, made up of several volunteers, has saved the town a ton of money. The members of the committee are the caretakers of the Wright Landing, a piece of town-owned property on Ferry Road with a boat launch into the Back River.
It is a historic site where the old ferry transported people off and on the island for over 100 years. It is now a public landing available for recreational and commercial use. It is maintained by the labors of the Wright Landing committee volunteers.
Over the past 10 years, the committee has been credited with saving the town thousands of dollars. The members work year-round to keep the landing accessible for public use. Many of the volunteers on the committee have served since its conception in 2005.
The horticulture committee was formed in 2014 to help the Wright Landing committee with the beautification of the landing. Last year the horticulture committee planted miniature lilac trees, daffodils, daisies, and annuals.
Most weeks between May and the end of September, four members at a time spent two to four hours a week at the landing. The committee also meets monthly to coordinate the work between the members.
Another committee that provides an important service to the town is the human resource committee. The human resource committee is a group of volunteers who offer aid, comfort, and companionship to the residents of the island.
It focuses on the aged, infirm, lonely, and people facing personal, medical, or family difficulties. Their services include providing food, fuel, and transportation to medical and personal appointments.
The human resource committee operates the Cottage Pantry, which provides food to residents who meet the federal poverty guidelines. The pantry is open for people to pick up food the last Monday in the month from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and the last Tuesday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m.
All services given by the human resources committee and the Cottage Pantry are provided by volunteers.
The human resources committee was formed in 2005 to provide support for residents. It raises funds through a yearly newsletter and the generosity of the townspeople. Because of the committee’s work in the town, the town’s general assistance fund is rarely used, saving the town and the state money.
The town mapping and website committee has saved the town about $27,000 for the technical work the members did to digitize the town’s tax and other information and upload it to the town website.
Members of the website and mapping committee currently include Dennis Dunbar, William Hopkins, and Neil Cavanaugh.
The historic town hall committee works continuously to keep the old building in shape. William Cooney attends a selectmen’s meeting monthly to report on what needs to be done, what has been done, and what the committee is planning to do.
Other volunteer boards and committees that provide a service to the town include the planning board, board of appeals, conservation commission, shellfish committee, harbor committee, cemetery committee, history committee, historical records and vault committee, representatives to the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, emergency management and civil defense committee, and ad hoc road committee.
The Westport Community Association, a nonprofit organization formed in 1955 to preserve the Westport Community Church and promote projects in the best interest of the town, has several volunteers.
The association hosts several events throughout the year, including a meet-and-greet wine and cheese tasting event, a barbecue to benefit the town fire department, the Halloween costume party, the annual Christmas program held at the historic community church, and many more.
The Westport Island Fire Department, also a nonprofit, is an all-volunteer department, including Fire Chief Robert Mooney and Assistant Chief Jason Abbott. The money appropriated each year from the town is used for equipment, maintenance, and operation of the town fire station.
Westport Island First Selectman George Richardson Jr. said, “The town of Westport Island is very fortunate to have the number of volunteers we have. We appreciate their dedication to the town, and the board of selectmen thanks them for their service.”