Last week, April 7-13, was an opportunity to celebrate two very important institutions in Wilton: libraries and volunteers. Even though the week has passed, it is not too late to reflect on how they elevate our town in so many ways.
Last Thursday, Wilton Library capped a month of outstanding programming surrounding its Wilton Reads project, an annual “community read” when everyone is invited and encouraged to read a chosen book that has cultural, social, or historical significance. This year’s book was The Tattooist of Auschwitz and on Thursday author Heather Morris came to Wilton to talk with students and the community at large.
Before presenting Morris to the standing-room-only audience, Elaine Tai-Lauria, the library’s executive director, commented that the theme of this year’s National Library Week was Libraries = Strong Communities. This year’s Wilton Reads program certainly brought segments of the community together, including students who participated by reading books on the Holocaust appropriate to their age group.
In discussing the heart of this year’s program, Tai-Lauria quoted former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan who said, “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”
The month of programs at the library ranged from the concrete — hearing directly from an Auschwitz survivor, a talk on the conditions leading to the massive genocide, a recounting of heroic efforts to save Jews, and videos of survivor testimonies — to the aesthetic — a concert of music composed by musicians killed in the Holocaust, an examination of art inspired by the period, and poetry related to the Holocaust. It was, as Tai-Lauria said, “an incredible journey” inspired by The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
The library was Heather Morris’s only Connecticut stop on an American tour to promote her book, which the audience learned will be made into a six-part mini-series. While she thanked the library for her invitation, the community owes a debt of gratitude to the library for presenting such a compelling program.
Not to be overshadowed by the library’s tour de force is another group that deserves the community’s thanks — its volunteers. There is nary an organization in this town that would survive without the army of volunteers that enable them to do their good work, from the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County to the Wilton Historical Society, Trackside Teen Center, Woodcock Nature Center, our churches, synagogue, schools, and many more.
Without volunteers we would not have a well-stocked food pantry, there would be no public gardens, no summer street fair. Groups like Kiwanis, Rotary and the Wilton Woman’s Club are the backbone of charitable activities in town. Volunteers mount the library’s book sales, the upcoming Minks to Sinks sale, and the Memorial Day parade. While some volunteers are front and center, many do their work quietly behind the scenes.
They have a definite positive financial impact on the town. CERT — the Community Emergency Response Team — frees up police by directing traffic in the event of a major accident or storm. The ambulance corps saves the town millions of dollars by not having to go to a paid ambulance service.
National Volunteer Week was created as an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the many ways it makes communities stronger and better places to live. But it is incumbent upon us to remember — and be thankful for — the other 51 weeks of the year our volunteers continue to help enrich our lives.