Good souls who fill the void

In communities, there are a couple of ways to get things done.

There’s the time-honored pick up the phone and put in a call to town hall or public works. Or there’s another route, one that’s being rediscovered in this time of tight budgets and sky-high taxes — you can do it yourself.

Lately there have been shining examples here of the latter. Among the many are:

• Westport tree expert Eric Whipple, worried about a big dead tree that was leaning over a playground, quickly discovered that his town has no tree budget to speak of. So he did the job himself. He, his crew and his equipment spent a long day cutting the tree down and cleaning it up, all without pay or reimbursement even for the fuel his chainsaws consumed.

• Prudence Island volunteer firefighters, Little Compton rescue volunteers et al. These are the people who, with no fanfare, willingly climb out of bed at 2 a.m. in January to help a neighbor — with no thought of overtime, pension or pay of any kind. In between calls they spend long hours of their own time training (the Prudence volunteers spent weeks last spring honing their skills). Small and isolated communities can’t function without such people.

• Clean The Bay: Neither state nor towns have ever shown much inclination to clean big flotsam from their treasured shores so these volunteers fill a big void. They bought themselves a barge and make the rounds hauling derelict boats, old navy mooring ‘camels’ and much more from the shallows. Apparently the state is waiting for them to do something about the half-submerged cabin cruiser in Portsmouth’s Blue Bill Cove. State patrol boats have been driving past and turning a blind eye to this eyesore ever since Irene sank it a year ago.

• With government doing its utmost to get out of the ‘safety net’ business, it’s being left to kind-hearted people to fill the void. Some of these can be found at food pantries in Westport, Tiverton and Little Compton. They report that the need for such help is little short of alarming.

In classrooms, on sports fields, on beaches during this month’s fall cleaning, and in senior centers, this list goes on and on. Calling public works or raising a ruckus at town meeting is one option. These good souls realize that the old-fashioned way can be the better way.

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