Board Of Contributors More Than A Spot Of Tea 2009: Spring 2003

Board of Contributors More than a spot of tea

In the spring of 2003, at just about the time that the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation released a report ranking New Hampshire 45th out
of 50 states in charitable giving, I was invited to the annual Silver Tea of the Deerfield Women’s Club. The Silver Tea is the kind of social event that I suspect the dean of my college had in mind over 40 years ago when she presided over the college’s silver tea service several times a year. She had hopes, I think, that the young women in her charge would learn to handle formal social events – not to mention finger sandwiches – with a certain amount of grace. Dean Marguerite Wynn-Roberts would have approved of the Silver Tea: immaculate tablecloths and fresh flowers, bone china, good coffee and strong tea. Delicate sandwiches and desserts. Candied almonds in tiny tea cups done up with pink bows as favors. A performance of 18th-century court music performed by a talented musician and harpsichord maker. And funny, far-ranging conversations with a diverse collection of women from the town to tie it all together. Those women were an intriguing group. Most were silver-haired. Those I recognized included two work ing nurses, the director of the Deerfield Food Pantry, a state legislator, a retired teacher, the director of the Miss Deerfield Fair Pageant, the town’s postmistress, and a number of women who had made home-making their priority. It struck me even then that I might be looking at the distaff side of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” These were, and are, the women who, in addition to keeping their homes and families functioning and often holding full-time jobs, somehow find the time year in and year out to help hold the town together. They volunteer at the library and bake for its annual Thanksgiving Pie Sale. They sell hand-made crafts and homemade foods at the town’s Christmas Fair. They pick fresh blueberries every summer and sell them at the Farmers’ Market. Profits from most of these activities go into an annual scholarship given to a Deerfield student graduating from high school. The organization has also helped fund Eagle Scout projects, supported families with critical needs and placed a granite bench in the small town park near the gazebo. There is talk about funding a new scholarship, this one to support an older student going back to college or in need of retraining for a new career.
A number of years ago, when it became obvious that there were families in town having trouble putting food on the table, these were the women who organized the Deerfield Food Pantry and got it up and running. They still contribute to it and volunteer at it. When they felt the cost of dues was becoming too much for some of the club’s members and, in Yankee fashion, doubted they were getting sufficient return for their money, they chose to disaffiliate with their national organization. Annual dues are still $5.

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