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Celebrating our Small Towns and Communities!


Where Everybody Knows Your Name

‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance of small towns and communities as we embark on Sunshine Week in New Hampshire’


Have you ever lived in a place where you felt special? Where you felt you were more than just another random, anonymous person – but actually a valued, contributing member of the community? Truly participating? If so, you know the importance that our small towns and tight knit communities play – not only in our day-to-day living – but also in how we feel connected to one another and how we feel about ourselves. This feeling is what the Sunshine Initiative is all about. Reinvigorating our sense of pride, positivity, and local connectedness – truly caring about others – and doing all you can to support a renewed vitality for the community in which you live.

Back in the February 1942 issue of The Atlantic magazine, an article was written by Arthur Morgan, a civil engineer and former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, titled “The Community—The Seed Bed of Society.” In it, Morgan made the case for communities and most notably, small towns, which he claimed were becoming, “orphaned in an unfriendly world” to things like commercialism and modern technology. While people made the moves to big cities and didn’t worry about the future of small towns, Morgan argued that small towns throughout history have consistently been at the forefront of society’s evolution. He continued by stating, “it’s in small towns where things like good will towards others, acceptance, debate, and our own humanity not only flourish, but are transmitted throughout other communities and transcend generations.” In short, he made the argument that it’s in small towns where the idea of community begins. Fast forward to 2023, and Morgan’s words still ring true.

This coming week in my hometown of Newport, New Hampshire and in other communities across the state, we’ll be celebrating Sunshine Week, a series of events and discussions that honor our small towns and look to the future of how we support them. At a time when small towns across the country are struggling to make ends meet or have been left behind all together, it’s important that we remember, to Morgan’s point, just how essential these communities are to the fabric of the United States.

While small towns in most cases may not be the home of massive multinationals or provide the “conveniences” of a big city, what they do provide in return is something we all long for, and that is community. When residents have the chance to say ‘hi’ on the street and truly get to know each other, there’s a unique spirit of pride and cooperation that can take hold. Where there is familiarity, there tends to be trust, and where there is trust, there is positive action and then positive change. The philosopher de Tocqueville even wrote about this during his journey through America. Of the communities he observed he stated that neighbors who at first worked together out of necessity eventually worked together out of choice as a means of ensuring that their community survived and then thrived.

As we look ahead to Sunshine Week, it’s our goal to champion small towns. This means not only building community but building the infrastructure and opportunities that make small towns a viable place to live. Yet this comes with patience, believing that there’s a difference to be made, and making small strides, one day at a time. Where there’s positive energy, there’s positive action – which in turn leads to positive change!


Newport, NH - Where Amazing Things are Happening!

Newport, NH is making news…as the Sunshine Initiative along with the work of so very many citizens in the community have helped set Newport on a new and brighter path!

Early in 2018, Jay's book "Authoring American Sunshine: Rays of Hope and Opportunity" was released and immediately became a bestseller. The beliefs and values found in the book and in particular the spirit of positivity are exactly what you'll find embedded in the many efforts that today are lifting up and reshaping the wonderful town of Newport.

Some of the exciting highlights where the Sunshine Initiative has played a key role include:

  • Bringing the community of Newport together to plant sunflowers all throughout the ‘Sunshine Town’ and win the Guinness Book of World records for creating an event with the most sunflower bouquets.

  • Helping to assemble interested parties to fund an economic director position in the Town of Newport whose duties were split between economic development and developing school-to-work programs with local businesses – all which have paid great dividends i.e., in 2023, the town has received over $20 million in grants to address some of the pressing needs of the community while also including a number of valued ‘beautification’ projects.

  • Working with Newport High School and its highly innovative Tech Center, the effort has developed a ‘School to Work Program’ to provide skills and great jobs for graduates.

  • Helped to find a developer for the beautiful Ruger Mill, where the Sunshine Initiative has been instrumental in helping to secure the additional funding needed to complete the project. This will bring needed housing as well as a potential Riverwalk to Newport – connecting residents in the new apartments with the Main Street.

  • Supporting the creation of new jobs in Newport – including energy efficient manufacturing, consumer products and even a boutique distillery on the Main Street - generating more than 75 new jobs!

  • After the town newspaper closed down, the Sunshine Initiative brought people together supporting the creation of a bi-monthly print publication called The Newport Times. And at the same time brought back a digital version called the Newport Times Online

  • Brought in David Rogers (CDO) from Dean Kamen’s FIRST Program and launched the National Science Foundation’s e4USA program - one of only ten such programs in the country – introducing a robotics program to Newport High School.

  • The Sunshine Initiative came through at the last minute for the Opera House by helping find enough tax credits so that $180k would not be lost through a program from the Community Development Finance Authority.

  • Created "Sunshine Week” in the month of June. Community and business leaders are participating on panels which are used both to help raise awareness of community issues and programs to share ‘best pracitices’ on community revitalization.

  • Helped Newport become the first community in NH to win the Dr. Sylvio Dupuis Community of Excellence Award

Acquiring the Eagle Times newspaper in neighboring Claremont in July 2022, Jay and the Sunshine team are transitioning it from a tired old community newspaper into a regional powerhouse that's further amplifying the voice of the Sunshine Initiative throughout the Newport-Claremont area as well as across the river into communities in Vermont.

And as Jay says, "we're still not done!" We’re thinking big - as in helping Newport transition itself into a destination point for travelers, sports enthusiasts, and others. Conversations and plans are in the works to add:

  • Community Center

  • Indoor Sport's Plex

  • Brew Pub

  • Hotel, restaurant, and breakfast spot

  • And there are even whispers of a potential river walk

And all this couldn't have been done without the leadership and support of the Newport Town Administration along with so very many members of the community - forging a new and exciting path both for current and future generations.


The American Sunshine Movement

Jay Lucas, founder of the Sunshine Initiative along with Karen, has a passion for his hometown. So much so, that when he starts telling the story of how in 2018, he and his wife Karen were driving down Newport's Main Street - the listener is instantly drawn into the story and can see a picture of what he describes. He recalls a Newport where he grew up – with what he calls a ‘Norman Rockwell main street’ – and instantly, you can envision the old Kelly’s drug store, Martin’s Hardware, Shop Rite supermarket, and more. However, as he and Karen were driving through that same main street five years ago, all those stores were gone. As he says, “it just wasn’t the same town anymore that I grew up in.”

So, as he says - "we decided we needed to do something!" And from that point on as the listener hears of how this grassroots effort, which first met on the second floor of the Salt Hill Pub (where all important decisions are made!) begins to take small but important steps in helping turn around Newport - the feelings of hope, excitement and the 'can-do' positive spirit take wing!

The fundamental beliefs, values, and success stories that Jay began to share in his newsletter with some friends and associates to talk about the progress being made in Newport gradually morphed into what is now known as the Sunshine Report which just this week it was announced reached over 50,000 readers across the great state of NH and beyond! Now in its 6th year and over 300 editions, its powerful positive stories of people, organizations and communities are injecting a spirit of hope and bringing a positive spirit to readers far and wide.

The story about Newport in this edition talks of the wonderful efforts and work that the Sunshine Initiative has done in what is known as the ‘Sunshine Town’ to help change the community’s trajectory. Interestingly, while this effort was gaining traction and making progress – word began to get out to other communities – and naturally, they started approaching Jay to see if the Sunshine Initiative could help in their communities.

As a result, the efforts of the Sunshine Initiative have expanded – resulting in a number of positive actions and outcomes, including:

  • Helped the town of Meredith win awarded the coveted Dr. Sylvio Dupuis Community of Excellence Award

  • Packed Laconia’s Lakeport Opera House with over 170 business leaders to see the Rat Pack – a professional Las Vegas cover act with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. The purpose of the event was to galvanize support for the Great New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, boost the economy in Laconia and the Lakes Region, and support Karmen Gifford and the Chamber of Commerce. The actual Pumpkinfest turned out to be a resounding success and we are now helping them with developing a Pumpkin Economy in the entire Lakes Region.

  • Helping bring new life to the Rochester Riverwalk by getting it listed on the CEDS (Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) list while introducing them to NH state officials and other organizations such as the NH Charitable Foundation – all sources of funding.

  • Collaborated with Waypoint (family service organization) to help support them in their annual fund-raiser as well as their new facility in Rochester while spot-lighting the Rochester Riverwalk.

  • Brought together some of the leading institutions on the West-side of Manchester, NH to help address a variety of societal challenges.

  • Participation on the Genesis Think Tank which is composed of the leading business and thought leaders in NH. Genesis was created to help address macro ecosystem issues in the state which complements the work of the Sunshine Initiative.

And requests have started coming in from around the United States as people begin to hear about what is happening in NH. It was always Jay's vision to be in a thousand communities across this great land of ours spreading the 'can-do' spirit. As we started to think about how best to meet this new challenge, we realized that what we really needed was to create a movement that would sweep across the land. Thus, was born the American Sunshine Movement.

As to how this will happen - we are developing strategic partnerships with other organizations to lead a movement that will help bring about the change needed in our communities. We're also looking to develop a platform of best practices that can be shared with communities.

Because we believe that creating strong communities embedded with traditional values along with the power of belief are what's going to help bring America back – you might enjoy picking up a copy of Jay's bestselling book - “American Sunshine: Rays of Hope and Opportunity." Read it and if you're inspired like we think you will be - please get in touch with us at info@SunshineInitiative.com


Positive Profile of the Week: Hunter Rieseberg – a Man with a Vision!

This week we are delighted to highlight a wonderful friend and tireless public servant, Newport Town Manager, Hunter Rieseberg.

Karen and I first met Hunter five years ago as we were just embarking on the Sunshine Initiative – and Hunter had just recently signed on as the Town’s full-time Manager – after having briefly served on an interim basis. You couldn’t help but be impressed. Hunter had just completed a highly successful role – leading in the revitalization of White River, Vermont – and Newport was indeed fortunate to have someone of Hunter’s capabilities and experience at the helm to drive Newport in a positive direction.

And so, he has! During his remarkable tenure, Hunter has made steady progress on numerous fronts. Revamping the town’s infrastructure with multiple projects – many of which are not highly visible but totally mission-critical. For instance, road paving projects, water sources, wastewater treatment, building repair and more. At the same time, he has been a leader in beautification efforts, providing great wooden benches for the beautiful Newport Town Common – and so much more – including his attracting more than $20 million in outside funding – largely grants to improve the town. And notably continuing the push for the building of a new community center to be provided for the youth and citizens of the town.

Newport has been blessed by all that Hunter has helped the town accomplish. And it is a true statement that the Sunshine Initiative could not have achieved such positive and highly impactful results if not for Hunter’s consistent and unequivocal support. Thank you, Hunter! Your efforts have made Newport a rising star in the Granite State and beyond – and thanks in large part to your efforts, the progress continues onwards!

Quotes of the Week: Small Town Spirit

"Small towns may be small in size, but they are mighty in heart. They remind us that true happiness can be found in the simplest moments and in the company of good friends." - Tom Hanks "Small towns are where real life happens, where friendships are forged, and where the true essence of community thrives." - Oprah Winfrey "In the small towns of America, you will find the true soul of the country—a spirit of togetherness, resilience, and genuine hospitality." - Barack Obama "Small towns are the backbone of our nation, where the values of hard work, neighborly love, and a strong sense of community are cherished and upheld." - Dolly Parton "The beauty of small towns lies in their ability to foster deep connections and create a sense of belonging that is often lost in larger cities." - Reese Witherspoon

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