McClaughry: Green Mountain Meetups

by John McClaughry

Seven Days published a nice piece on June 28 titled “Green Mountain Meetups.” It was subtitled “Vermonters break bread, dance and forge communities in ‘third spaces’”.

John McClaughry

Reporter Rachel Hellman observed that “civic ties in Vermont communities have been fraying because of a confluence of trends. Local schools are going dark as districts merge. Some general stores have closed, volunteers in local emergency services, senior care, and community events have dwindled … neighbors seem alienated from one another.”

Three women in Hardwick – Erica Heilman, Rose Friedman, and Tara Reese – noticed this unhappy trend and decided to do something about it. They transformed the shuttered Gazette weekly newspaper office into a community center and christened it the Civic Standard. Its motto is “people want to gather with their neighbors, both the ones they know and the ones they haven’t met yet.”

They’ve hoisted trivia nights, a haiku club, a games tournament, old time fiddle classes and hugely popular murder mystery dinner theatre production. According to the organizers, unlikely friendships have formed and inspired surprising conversations.”.

Hellman goes on to profile similar efforts in Berlin, Johnson, Cabot, Winooski, and Charlotte, and there are probably quite a few more.

In an age dominated by what seems to be growing alienation and political rhetoric that aims to divide, and excoriate and punish, let’s give a gold star to these homegrown efforts to rebuild community and shared purpose.

The author, a Kirby resident, is founder and vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute. To read all EAI news and commentary, go to

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

  1. You wonder why people within communities aren’t engaging with each other as much anymore, then you see this nice quote from Sarah George in WCAX (that to me) that perfectly sums up the problem-

    “Everyone is entitled to be ‘on the street after committing a nonviolent offense. In fact, our Constitution demands it. So, just because someone commits a crime doesn’t mean they will be incarcerated for that crime pending trial,” she said.”

    Cool, so exposing yourself? All good Sarah? Obviously you’re condoning stealing whatever you want from anyone. The majority are tired of the BS. We need to go back to locking people up.

  2. Sarah George, is just another black eye for Vermont, an agenda driven
    fool………………….. two-tier justice

  3. The picture is enough to keep any sane individual away from these things. One lady is likely posting “all the ways white people disappoint me” while the dude is apologizing for being male.
    Sounds great. No really.

  4. Thank you John! Agree, we need people talking and engaging face to face with their friends and neighbors. The digital age is truly a digital divide and has our community members who may simply disagree on one of 100 topics, the others they are in agreement on, but nevertheless are at each others’ throats. Human to human, face to face conversation.