By Jonathan P. LaBonté
Mayor of Auburn
The week of Thanksgiving tends to quickly turn most people’s attention to the Christmas season and the blitz of advertisements, gift wish lists and for many the stress of trying to keep up the Joneses. And in Lewiston-Auburn, where the decades of economic stagnation we are battling to turn around has left more families struggling in poverty than generations ago, the holiday season brings all sorts of added pressure.
Rather than let that consumerism get too much control over our thoughts this week, I’d ask you to join me in thinking about what you are thankful for in your life, and in this community, and perhaps put on your “to do” list lending a hand to those in need.
With those challenges of poverty so real in the lives of families here, I’m thankful for the local non- profits that provide that support for Thanksgiving and other meals during this season. Those groups include Hope Haven Gospel Mission, Trinity Jubilee Center, the High Street Congregational Church Food Pantry and many others. They often seek volunteers to help prepare or deliver meals and seek the treasure of local residents and businesses to keep the shelves stocked.
When each of us settle in for our Thanksgiving dinners or to watch one of the football games comfortably with our families, I hope you’ll join me in being thankful for our first responders here in Auburn and Lewiston. The firefighters, police officers and emergency communications staff make sacrifices, beyond the daily risks inherent in their jobs, to work and be away from their families on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other times that many of us find ourselves sitting behind a grill or by a fire relaxing.
As we think about our public employees, we should all be thankful for the public works crews of both cities that help keep us safe as we go about our activities during this season by clearing sidewalks, crosswalks and streets of snow and ice. While at times I do hear the occasional grumble of a slow commute into town, the men and women of these departments work all hours of the day, any day they are needed, to make travel possible.
The day after Black Friday, I’m thankful for the many small business owners that we have here in our community that provide services and goods that make for great Christmas gifts. These businesses make up the heart of our local economy.
And when they aren’t in their businesses or thinking about their businesses, many of those owners and their employees are busy volunteering their time, talent and treasure to the many groups that add to the quality of life in our community. These range from arts and cultural groups, to business-to-business and marketing organizations, to youth programs. I’m thankful that so many in our community see the value in offering to serve others and improve this place.
Whether it’s public employees or private business owners, long-time residents or those new to Lewiston-Auburn, this community is blessed with many people willing to give of themselves to improve the fortunes of others. And given the need here, there’s always the opportunity for each of us to do more. If you haven’t already found a way to give back during this season, I hope you reach out to connect with an organization that can put your talents to use.