Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving: This valley shares all year

When pondering their blessings this Thanksgiving, families in the Wood River Valley might well put at the top of the list—themselves and other local families.

We should be thankful for this remarkable community, its generosity and beneficence. Its willingness to share exists year-round. Give them an excuse, and Wood River Valley families reliably latch onto any idea that allows them to give and to make life just a bit better for those in need.

Even the best efforts to find and recognize people and groups doing good for others is almost futile because charitable sharing has become almost commonplace. But a few examples from recent months make the case.

Hurricane Katrina?

One would need a month of Sundays to find someone who didn't step up and give or, better, devise some better way to give.

Remember the volunteers who went to the stricken Gulf Coast to help rescue panicked and homeless pets? Or the local restaurants that staged fund-raising evenings?

Students at Bellevue Elementary School came up with a new wrinkle. They produced a musical CD to sell, with proceeds earmarked for Katrina victims.

Then Wood River High student Moriah Price had her own slant on filling a need—Operation Shoe Box, a campaign to collect shoes for refugees in the Middle East.

Idaho's military troops in Iraq have not been forgotten. A variety of groups collected funds to buy what the military doesn't supply—personal hygiene and comfort products, books and magazines, CDs.

Fish and wildlife also rank high in the valley. Few places on earth have such a concentration of wildlife and environmental conservation organizations—all of them successful and active in protecting Mother Nature's flora and fauna because of generous and concerned contributors.

The visit of the Dalai Lama to the valley unleashed a demonstration of how profoundly committed the valley is to brotherhood: Thousands attended his appearances to replenish their sense of charity.

Moreover, the exiled leader of the world's Buddhists stirred new enterprises: The Idaho Compassion Foundation, for example, is committed to finding housing for school teachers whose salaries rarely equal costs of places to live.

And the list goes on.

Community Baskets will provide hearty meals during the holidays for families otherwise short on ability. Ditto for the Silver Creek Alternative School, whose students are assembling the 200 holiday food baskets.

Fund-raising tables are set up year-round at valley stores—too many to itemize—to benefit various causes.

The Ski Education Foundation, which grows future generations of young skiers, is a prime beneficiary of good deeds.

Preserving one of the area's grandest icons, Galena Lodge, drew handsome donations again this a year.

So, too, did The Advocates, an organization that cares for families in crisis with protection, housing and counseling.

The valley taps its pocketbook regularly to support lots of youth sports with money for travel, uniforms and equipment. The teams regularly distinguish themselves—such as the 5B Swim Team, which brought home state honors recently—and do their community proud.

The valley recently dug deep to launch a new YMCA, which has already started to provide programs for kids.

The 25 often forgotten seniors who reside at Blaine County Manor are benefiting this year from a renovation financed by the manor's auxiliary volunteers.

St. Luke's Hospital Auxiliary also regularly raises money for equipment that makes hospital stays safer and more comfortable.

And not to ever be overlooked are those who are creating a nationally renowned reputation for the valley's culture. Volunteer work and dogged fund raising bring us live theater, a jazz festival, summer symphony, folk music festival, art exhibitions, arts and crafts shows, Wagon Days, and a national writer's conference.

Unique among annual events is Trailing of the Sheep, whose efforts create an understanding of the Basque heritage in foods, dance, customs and crafts that had profound influences on Idaho's history and the valley's early economy.

The nature of society is that noisemakers—carping politicians come to mind—usually get the attention in the news.

But once in a while, we must remind each other that the real work of a community usually is unsung and largely unnoticed. It's always driven by the desire to make life better for our neighbors

It makes us proud of where we live.

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