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Where You Grew Up

Jay asks you to think about the place where you grew up, the important values you remember and how we can best restore and build upon those core values in our lives and communities today?

Do you remember what it was like where you grew up? The place, the time? Were there some things about it that were important to you – that played a big part in shaping the person you are today? Sure, we’ve made major advances in so many ways – but I suspect there were some key aspects from the past that just don’t seem the same to you today? Simple, but important. Like feeling safe, not having to think about crime in our communities. As a kid, being able to ride your bike down to the grocery store – and not thinking twice about it. Maybe not even having to lock your doors. Remember when school was about teaching math, English, history? You knew your neighbors. There was a strong sense of community pride, caring for one another. Achievement was celebrated. Love of county. Hard work revered. Strong families as the building blocks. Do you remember any of these things from your past?

The good news is that we have in our power the opportunity to shape the future – with faith and determination we can restore, revive and even improve upon some of the important things you may remember from where and when you grew up. But, to do this, we need to start with a foundational understanding of those values from the past that we cherish. And, ask ourselves the question – where have we seen them eroded today? Where have seen a chipping away of those shared values that we seemingly took for granted. And, meanwhile ask why has there been slippage and what can we do about it?

If these questions strike a chord with you, I urge you to write to me. Please send me an email at Let me know what you remember from the past – when you were growing up - that you truly value. What are the key elements that made a difference in your life – and gave us all a sense of shared community and a positive sense of well-being. I will collect and digest your input and share back with you in an upcoming Sunshine Report. Together we can recreate much that we value from the past – and shape an even brighter future. Please do let me know.

Our Town Libraries

When I was growing up, I had the great good fortune of living in a house located right beside our town library. The Richards Free Library located in Newport, New Hampshire is housed in beautiful Victorian era building that was donated to the town by the widow of the community’s leading industrialist many years ago. If you haven’t visited this beautiful library, you really do need to take a visit. It’s a marvelous experience.

For me, growing up, it was true treasure and part of frequent routine. At the age of 8 or 10, I could go to the library, read books about Thomas Edison or George Washington, understand history, read about science – and more. And, all of this was possible because this ‘free’ institution was there to be used and enjoyed by all members of the community. Which of course, recently, got me to thinking. How did these wonderful ‘free’ institutions come into being? The answer turns out to be fascinating and not surprisingly, has a distinct New Hampshire element to it.

Almost 200 years ago, at an annual town meeting, the first taxpayer supported public library in the United States was established in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The library was founded on the principle that the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of oneself was worth the investment of the town’s money. The creation of public libraries in support of individual learning, betterment and growth spread like wildfire through the nation through the turn of the 20th century. One of the most influential people of the era who embraced that principle was Andrew Carnegie.

An industrialist originally from Scotland, Andrew Carnegie made his wealth in the steel industry. By 1919, he had donated almost 1,700 libraries to towns across the nation. Known as ‘Santa Carnegie,’ he only asked communities whether or not there was a current library in the town, what the tax levy was, and if the community had a suitable location for the new library.

Of the 1,700 libraries, nine were given to New Hampshire. All nine libraries are still operating today. They are scattered throughout the state, from the Berlin Public Library in Berlin to the Fiske Free Library in Claremont to the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts in Durham.

The spread of public libraries continues to this day. Currently, there are over 230 public libraries active in New Hampshire, and they have become anchors in their communities. These libraries have become a place for local information, gatherings, and exhibits, causing libraries to be more than a place for the pursuit of knowledge but a place for the pursuit of community. They are a rich and important resource – helping to advance learning and positive interaction throughout the Granite State.

Manchester’s West Side – Building on Strong Traditions

The West Side of Manchester is an amazing place – rich with history and tradition. the West Side is technically defined as that portion of Manchester located west of the Merrimack River and is generally known for its large French-Canadian population – with families who migrated to Manchester to work in the burgeoning textile mills during the 19th century and choosing to live in this great neighborhood.

Over the past two centuries, the West Side has enjoyed a distinct culture – with a definite French-Canadian influence. And, many of the most prominent West Side institutions bear this out. Take for example, St. Mary’s Bank. Opening its doors in 1908, the bank became the very first credit union in the United States. As such, it was an institution whose mission included helping the members of the community – predominated by the recent immigrant population to have access to financial resources and thereby enjoy a better life. Very affordable, anyone in the community could become a member of this cooperative by simply purchasing a share of stock, priced at only five dollars.

Or how about Chez Vachon? This incredible restaurant is pure ‘West Side’ at its best. For decades it has been a ‘must stop’ for political candidates – national, state and local. Presidential candidates routinely visit Chez Vachon. And, whether you are a candidate or not, the menu is ‘one of a kind’ – and one of the special dishes on the menu is the amazing 5-pound poutine.

There is history and local tradition on every corner. Just down the street is Bob and Sons Auto Repair. For decades this West Side specialty store has been providing a much-needed service to the people of the Queen City. Other favorites as well - Aubin Hardware, and King’s Bowling Alley are also local favorites.

Over the past couple decades, however, the West Side has experienced some more difficult times. The community has struggled s economically. There have been shifts in the population, urban renewal has caused a degree of dislocation and there has been a fraying at the edges of some its earlier identity and close-knit feeling of community.

With this as backdrop, the Sunshine Initiative is now launching an effort to help revitalize West Side. There is a sense that the time is now for the West Side to take a giant step forward – with a renewed burst of energy. There is an excitement in the air. There is a community spirit that is beginning to build, and there is a passionate group of West Siders who remember the wonderful community of the past – and who want to build upon that foundation, integrate exciting new elements and create a bright new future for growing and vibrant West Side community. As this exciting story unfolds, we at the Sunshine Report will be keeping you up to date. It is certainly a story worth watching.

Positive Profile of the Week: Bill Greiner

We are delighted this to highlight a friend and leading citizen of Bedford, New Hampshire – who continually has ‘given his all’ to his local community, Bill Greiner.

Bill Greiner is a businessman who has a laser like focus on working to improve his community and helping others to grow their own businesses. Bill is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Primary Bank which has a mission statement that is directed just to this point. Primary Bank’s purpose is to always work to perpetuate a culture that encourages small business success. What has this mission brought? Bill's hometown of Bedford has grown and flourished - now one of the most prosperous, safest and most sought-after towns in the state of New Hampshire.

Bill’s commitment to his community extends well beyond the banking world. He is also an entrepreneur himself owning several well-known restaurants in the area - creating jobs as well as adding to the attraction and social wellbeing of the community. In addition, he has also committed himself to public service having been a town selectman, including his service as chairman of the board. Furthermore, Bill is also known for his charitable giving, and while he does not boast about his kind acts, they are well known in the area.

Bill’s success comes from hard work, a commitment to community, and being persistent and determined in the face of adversity. The greater Bedford community has benefitted greatly from his charitable and economic endeavors, and I know that there will be more great things to come! Thank you, Bill Greiner!

Quotes of the Week: Libraries

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” Mark Twain

“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” Walter Cronkite

“People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.” Saul Bellow

“Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book...” Dwight D. Eisenhower


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