The weather having been as dreary as it has been throughout this week before Christmas, I stopped by the Salvation Army center to find good cheer in the person of Lt. Meghan Brunelle, who was adding gifts to those that filled the tables of the large room.
These are times of a kind we have not known because of the size of the nation’s debt and the political struggle to begin what will be the long climb out of it, and charities are playing an increasingly demanding role.
Thankfully, Newburyport has a number of them, the most visible of which is the Salvation Army.
I had come from the annual meeting of the NAID Foundation board, called to respond to requests from a variety of local institutions seeking support.
All charitable foundations have histories. Many are formed by successful individuals and others are formed by institutions of all kinds. Newburyport is rich with them. All seek either to ease burdens or to otherwise enhance the public good.
The Newburyport Area Industrial Development Corp. did that over the better part of a half century when it closed that initiative and formed the NAID Foundation to create and preserve a charitable fund.
That was not what hundreds of individuals and businesses had in mind back in 1965-1966 when they responded to the fund drive that raised some $200,000 in kind or pledges over two years because jobs and the local economy were very much on their minds.
Not a few of the responses were for a hundred dollars or less. What was most important was the societal depth and breadth of the donors, all of whose names and pledged donations are on record at the Newburyport Public Library.
I read them once again this week in the library’s archives center to rekindle old relationships.
Two hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money in 1965 and 1966.
What was of historic significance was the representative breadth of Newburyporters and those from Newbury who came together in common cause with a can-do cohesion for a new industrial base — that despite the extended and heated debate over demolition or restoration of Newburyport’s downtown.
Despite the turmoil, NAID forged ahead to create what would become the Lord Timothy Dexter Industrial Green, and now forming the westerly section of the Newburyport Industrial Park.
All the original members of the NAID board are deceased.
Board members of both NAID organizations served and continue to serve without compensation.
It has been, and continues to be, one of Newburyport’s most successful examples of community enterprise.
Since the creation of the foundation in 1993 through December of this year, 46 qualified public service organizations and charities in the greater Newburyport area have benefitted from the total of $1,821,745 in responses to requests.
It wasn’t what was on anyone’s mind back when NAID was formed, but there really is something special about being able to give and keep on giving.
That’s why Lt. Meghan and I were grinning.
(Editor’s note: Following the sudden deaths within a few weeks of the first two presidents of NAID, Bill Plante, then the editor of The Daily News, was asked to serve as their successor in order to continue the fund drive and land purchases for what would become the Lord Timothy Dexter Industrial Green.)
Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.