It took a village to ‘take a break’

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To the Editor:

On behalf of the Island’s seniors, Islanders with new hips, new knees, and bad backs, let me say “thank you.”

It is now almost a year since I initially met with Adam Moore, executive director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. He was my first stop on the Island as I sought out an organization that would “get” the notion of making our public trails and paths accessible to far more of us by placing a bench one mile in from each public trailhead.

Adam said yes immediately to the Take a Break campaign, and assured me that getting his board’s approval would be an easy next step. Thank you, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation.

When Adam asked me to chair the action committee, I quickly recruited my sister Barbara — the perfect detail person.

Then I thought, We need to raise funds. Whom on this Island do I know who knows how to make the “ask”? Of course. I immediately thought about recruiting Cynthia Bloomquist. Cynthia and Thaw Malin did not just say yes, they jumped into the job with passion.

Thank you three.

The action committee got to work getting the word out — doctors’ offices, massage therapists, physical therapists, Island health clubs. Fitness trainers and chiropractors were gracious and let us post handouts in their waiting areas. Thank you.

There were large donors — like the Tower Foundation — and our personal friends, who quickly wrote checks, and then strangers who sent along donations. Thank you all for your support.

And then the project got really hands-on.

Doug Ruskin donated his talent to design and create the first bench — the prototype — which is a work of art, at the Caroline Tuthill Preserve. And Doug drew up the design specs for others to replicate so that the benches meet the needs of hikers with challenges — backs with a bit of an angle, and arms for super safety. Thank you, Doug.

The M.V. Regional High School’s career and technical education program got students working on creating benches. And Island woodworkers with a bit of time during the winter also donated their time and talent to create additional benches. Thank you.

With the success of the fundraising campaign — we raised $30,000 — we were also able to purchase benches. Initially, Vineyard Garden’s owners, Chuck and Chris Wiley, generously volunteered to purchase the benches for us at their corporate discount. Thank you, Chris and Chuck, for your generosity.

The idea of a corporate “deal” got Barbara thinking, and with Cynthia and Thaw’s knowledge of wood, the committee actually found an even more economical way to purchase benches so that we could afford to buy 70.

Seventy cartons arrived, and the State Forest garage was the perfect destination. One Saturday morning, 35 friends and a few strangers participating in the State Forest’s volunteer day gathered — bringing their own No. 2 Phillips screwdrivers — for an assembly party. It was a hoot.

In pairs the benches were created, sealed, and ready to be placed. To everyone who lent a hand that Saturday morning — thank you.

And so on Saturday (June 1, National Trails Day), we ceremoniously placed the last of 80 benches created by the Take a Break campaign.

Trails along Sheriff’s Meadow properties, State Forest properties, The Trustees of Reservations properties, and at Felix Neck have all received gifts of these benches. In addition, the Land Bank Commission has promised me that it will make and place four to six benches — with backs and arms — along a few of its trails.

Islanders with the Trail app can soon find these special destinations. A paper map is being created, also showing where the benches may be found.

The Take a Break campaign lasted less than a year from start to finish. This is what you can do when an idea makes people smile, nod their heads and say, “Yeah, that is what we need to do.”

I hope that as more and more Islanders — and visitors — “take a break” on one of these benches, they just say out loud — or to themselves — “What is the next thing that needs to get done?”

Together here on Martha’s Vineyard, we can get it done.

Thank you.

Susan Silk
West Tisbury