Maine winter: Staying warm, being neighborly

0

Every other Thursday in Industry, there is a celebration of community hosted by the Industry Community Kitchen.

Kitchen volunteers organize these gatherings, including free noon meals, games and conversation, to provide some neighborly warmth and nourishing food to their neighbors. The gatherings started in November and more are scheduled for the Thursdays of Jan. 17 and 31; Feb. 14 and 28; and March 14 and 28.

Volunteer Rosemary Frazier said she helps organize these events because she likes to do things for other people and thought it would be nice to help get some people out of the house during the winter. That is nice and, for some people, an important link to well-being.

The idea of ensuring that our neighbors are warm through the long winter is a caring Maine tradition.

Advertisement

Last week, warming centers in nearby Farmington also opened and will be open through all or most of winter, including centers at Old South Congregational Church (open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday through the end of March) and Henderson Memorial Baptist Church (open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday from Jan. 8 to Feb. 12). On Feb. 19, St. Joseph’s Parish will open its warming center, and will be open every Tuesday through March.

These churches, and other community centers that offer warming centers, are keeping friends and neighbors connected and informally keeping track of people in the greatest need of assistance.

Most of Maine’s largest cities have warming centers, either in local churches or town halls, but the effort is often difficult for smaller towns to maintain because it takes a lot of donations and plenty of volunteer hours to organize and staff. Industry is doing that, and doing it well.

We have a lot of cold weather ahead of us, and there are plenty of people in Maine who need a warm meal and a place to socialize. If you are one of those people, or if you know of someone in need, the state’s Emergency Management Agency can help locate a warming center (800-452-8735). And, very often, local United Way chapters and organizations such as SeniorsPlus know where the centers are, as do town offices, so call them. Spend a day with neighbors, chatting over a bowl of soup or playing a hand of cards. Or, for those like Frazier who want to help people this winter, volunteer.

In a very real way, this is the way life should be: Neighbors helping neighbors.

*

On Thursday, the Rumford Board of Selectmen considered a request from a citizen to enforce municipal laws barring property and business owners from plowing or shoveling snow onto another’s property, into the road or onto sidewalks.

This, after a citizen confronted a plow driver about breaking the law and says he was assaulted.

In the aftermath of the incident in Biddeford, where two young adults were shot to death after an argument with their landlord about snow removal and storm parking, this is not a frivolous request for Rumford to consider.

And town officials seem to be taking the issue seriously, asking police to address the citizen’s specific complaint and planning discussions with Public Works on plowing priorities.

But, the real work here must be done by private citizens.

We’ve been spoiled for the past several years with low snowfall, but common sense dictates anticipating that it will snow this winter and we’re all going to have to move the snow off our driveways and our sidewalks, with the corresponding need to plan where to put it all.

As in Rumford, many towns have ordinances restricting snow from being plowed into the street or onto sidewalks, but have not strictly enforced these rules, knowing that it takes time for people to move snow.

But, has this relaxed municipal attitude inadvertently empowered abuse among neighbors over plowed snow?

So it appears, and perhaps a real — short-term — crackdown makes sense to enforce civility.

There is no cause to assault someone, or worse, over snow piles.

No cause.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

Advertisement