Warmest Regards: Unsung heroes of a community
By Pattie Mihalik
As I varied my morning walk by walking along the bike and pedestrian path along a park area, I thought about how lucky we are in our community to have such a safe, scenic place to walk.
Then I thought about the fact that we never would have that prime recreation path if it weren’t for those who worked to make it happen.
Here’s the thing: Nothing, absolutely nothing, exists without the planning and work of others.
I remember when the recreation pathway was just in the planning stages.
I was impressed that the person working tirelessly to make the bike path a reality would probably never use it. He didn’t bike and didn’t live close enough to the area that he would walk there.
But George believed it was something badly needed by our community. Many areas, including that one, didn’t have sidewalks and it wasn’t safe to walk along busy thoroughfares.
Because most residents were older adults, George believed it was important to give them a safe place to walk or bike.
Not everyone agreed. The naysayers came out in force, saying there was no need to spend money creating the path because no one would use it.
Fortunately, George persuaded other community activists to go along with the project.
Unfortunately, cancer took George’s life before the project was finished. Because he was responsible for making it happen, the pathway was named after him.
Two years later some are still writing letters to the editor claiming the path was unused and was a waste of money.
I went there one morning and in one hour’s time I counted 18 bicyclists enjoying the path along with dozens of walkers.
I went back for another count in early evening and saw even more pedestrians and older bikers enjoying the path.
It was then that I thought of how one person could be so instrumental in making a community better.
My friend Andy is another unsung community hero. It’s astonishing when I think of all the wonderful community events that we all owe to his creativity and hard work.
Our community has a series of canals that run behind our homes. There are alligators there, of course, and people didn’t think of the canals as great places to boat.
Andy changed all that. He loved traveling the canals in his pontoon boat and wanted others to share in the fun.
So he offered free rides to whoever wanted to tag along.
After a few years of canal outings, more and more people bought pontoon boats to join in the canal convoys.
One year Andy got the idea to stage a community lighted boat parade. It is now an established holiday tradition that draws two thousand spectators.
It grows bigger and better every year and it’s all thanks to the organizational work of Andy.
Now, he has another idea.
With five beautiful golf courses located in our community, a lot of people have their own golf cart.
“What if we had a lighted golf cart parade for Easter,” suggested Andy.
The idea was an instant winner so Andy said he is now organizing a lighted golf art parade for the Christmas season. When Andy realized there aren’t many big events during the summer, he did something about it by establishing a big community celebration each July.
I’ve watched Andy and I’ve observed how he steps back and doesn’t take credit for anything. Instead, his main interest is encouraging others to join in and take charge. I think that’s one reason why his ideas come to fruition.
During the last July carnival about two dozen volunteers were front and center running the event.
Andy was just another spectator, a happy one at that.
“When people take charge of an event or activity, they gain more community pride and self-satisfaction,” he told me.
I have to be honest and say that just about every planned event has its detractors. Some sit on the sidelines loudly criticizing what others are trying to do.
That seems especially true lately.
When that happens, some wise folks will retort by saying, “It takes no talent to criticize. Come join us and work to make good things happen.”
Good things happen in every community. And each time something good comes to fruition, it’s only because there was an unsung hero coming up with the idea then working to make it happen.
When I lived in Palmerton I loved walking in the borough park along Delaware Avenue. I loved seeing the flower gardens that were there only because some worked to create and maintain those beautiful gardens.
I especially loved that wonderful park during the annual Palmerton Community Festival.
Talk about unsung heroes coming together to make a great event possible.
Some work and plan all year to pull off the community festival. They don’t do it for their own recognition. They simply want to help create something worthwhile for others to enjoy.
As I looked at the many church and organization stands that are part of the festival, I realized the stands also were there only because of the hard work of others.
Look around your own community at all the events and places that are there.
When you realize nothing just pops up without the hard work of planners and workers, tip your hat to the unsung heroes who make every community better.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.