At the Beginning of the Road

December 1996

With the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping it is easy to forget where we are.  Our community is nestled in a remote little spot on earth.  We are surrounded by snow covered trees that show us a cold beauty even below our ever present cloudy skies.  The roar of planes, mass transit and traffic jams do not reach our ears.

Our oasis allows us to develop our individual talents and express them to the point where they get noticed and appreciated.  Few are getting rich, but many are becoming enriched.  One of the most important attributes of Ely is our level of volunteering.  In reviewing this last year it is easy to find examples of volunteering.  The largest example for me would be Ely Community Theater.  Sixty people who worked four months to give us Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Joseph gave Ely nine fantastic performances expressing the best of human spirit.  That glow was shown again last summer with Ruth and Jim Lah’s performance of I Do!I Do!  Time and again the volunteers of theater have enriched our lives.

Ely’s glorious festivals and celebrations involve just as many volunteers as the theater work.  The Ely Chamber deserves our thanks for being the guiding force that gives us a great Fourth of July, Blueberry Art Festival, Harvest Moon Festival and Voyageur Winter Festival.  With the help of groups such as the Kiwanis and Lions clubs, as well as many of the merchants, we all get to enjoy great food, demonstrations and crafts at these festivities. 

I wish to thank all those clowns in the Ely Klown Band for the smiles they bring to young and old alike.  None of these musical pranksters get paid.  They donate their time, talent and get paid.  They donate their time, talent and dubious outfits to be our ambassadors of cheer.

Some of the volunteers work quietly in the background.  Not too many people know Paul and Ruth Pengal are responsible for putting up the Chamber of Commerce garlands along Sheridan.  I imagine it is a cold and tedious job, but the results transform Sheridan in a delightful way. 

Another group that deserves our thanks is the independent merchants in Ely.  Most businesses are owned and operated by people who live in our community.  Without the gifts of money or products, our community would not enjoy such a vibrant culture.  In communities dominated by franchises and corporate stores you will find these national giants give nothing back.  That is something to remember when you think about heading down to Duluth for power shopping.  How much money has Miller Hill Mall contributed to Ely?  Have they held a free wild game feed as Steve Piragis does annually?  Have they offered Holiday Dollars, like Boundary Waters Bank, to promote shopping in Ely?  Does Duluth support our Little League?  If we allow Main Street to wither, we diminish ourselves.

Another group that deserves our thanks is the Ely Garden Club.  They maintain the park gardens and other public spots to give Ely a green look in summer.  They pull weeds, water, plant and donate their time so our public spaces look beautiful.

At our schools are countless volunteers who help with all the programs for the kids.  Everything from the Halloween Party to PTO fundraising have helped make our schools “kid friendly” and an effective educational center.

The City of Ely has many volunteer boards that try to shape our city to meet our current and future needs

I am sure we could fill up an issue of the Echo with all the names of people who volunteer time, money or material to keep our community a wonderful town.  I admit that I have only mentioned a few of the volunteer efforts that I am aware of.  All I know is that we all need to give thanks this holiday season to everyone who has volunteered throughout the year.  In many communities the notion of volunteering is looked upon as a waste of time.  It is those communities that we hear so much negative news about.  In Ely we have much to cheer about.  On behalf of my family – Snow White, the kidlets and myself – thanks, Ely volunteers.  Season’s Greetings to you and the best in ’97.

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