WRAP--A Local Response To The Times
One year ago, many people were compelled to voice their anguish over the inauguration of Donald Trump. Some marched. Others took to social media. Others wore safety pins. Jean Goldsborough and Annie Rubright weren’t looking to do those things. They focused their efforts locally, attempting to build bridges and make changes in town. In the face of strong division, they wanted to bring Reading closer. Their response was to form the group Women of Reading Acting for Progress, or WRAP.
I learned about WRAP and met Jean and Annie last July when they came to a select board meeting to talk about the use of the town’s new green space. As a representative of the Recreation Commission, I was there for the same reason, since the Rec Commission wanted to get the okay to host the Produce Swap in that space. Jean and Annie, a few other WRAP members, and I, informally formed a group to discuss what the green space could be for the town.
“Our goal,” said Annie when we, along with Jean and Lisa Kaija, sat down to rap about WRAP, “is to make the community more sustainable, vibrant, and informed.” Jean provided the group’s mission statement, which mirrors Annie’s comments: to “provide a safe space where women who reside in Reading can connect, share information, and participate in in progressive change to create a strong, inclusive, vibrant community.”
You’ll note that apart from being a woman and being a resident of Reading, there is no other requirement to become involved in WRAP. Conservative or Progressive, Republican or Democrat, married or single, employed or not, young or old, all women of Reading are invited to participate.
Recruitment to the group was informal, one woman inviting another. Over the first few months, the number of members rose to a dozen. Together, they worked to define their purpose. It took them several months to arrive at their mission statement while they began to get to know each other better.
As they were in their planning phase, meeting monthly, they wanted to ensure that the group did not become insular. One of the first things the members did was to challenge each other to have a conversation with someone whose views she didn’t agree with. It was an effort to try to understand how we got to where we are and to try to understand the lives and beliefs of people who were not like them. Lisa Kaija recalls how both difficult and enlightening that was.
About the time I met Jean and Annie, they had suggested to other members that WRAP take a break for the summer because people would be going on vacation. The reaction was swift and firm: don’t skip meetings. The response both surprised and pleased Jean and Annie. They knew the group had staying power.
Over the year, WRAP has grown in number, but 12 to 15 women meet once a month for a potluck dinner, and then they talk. Jean says they try to have an agenda for each meeting to keep it from going on too long. From beginning to end, the gathering lasts about two-and-a-half hours.
One of the most important benefits of WRAP, according to Jean and Annie, is that the members help inform each other, both on local issues and national issues. Jean admits that she has learned a lot about a lot of things, thanks to the knowledge, wisdom, and experiences of the other WRAP members. Another thing the group can count among its successes is that it has encouraged community involvement from its members, an area where they can make a huge impact. Lisa says one of the things she is proudest of is that at a recent potluck, the group cobbled together $278 to donate to relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
I have only half the requisite characteristics to join WRAP, but I am more than happy to know that such a group exists and that the women of Reading took what they saw as a bad situation and made something positive out of it.
Remembering the only requirements to join WRAP, If you would like to learn more about the group, contact Jean and Annie at 484-7789.
Keeping on the topic of women, several ladies from town will be attending the Women’s March in Montpelier on Saturday, January 20. If you’re interested in going and want more information, contact Boolie Sluka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changing gears, big thanks from the Reading Historical Society to Liesbeth and Adam Kozlowski. They are donating solar credits to the society, which will be applied to its electric bills. Doing this is not as simple as diverting beautiful beams of sunlight from their house to Felchville. In truth, they don’t have solar panels. Instead, through SunCommon, the Kozlowskis belong to what Liesbeth describes as almost like a CSA.
They pay a certain amount to buy solar generation at a solar farm. What they don’t use, they donate to the historical society. Unfortunately, the SunCommon program is closed to new customers now. Too bad; it’s a clever, clean, and community-minded act of generosity.
Here’s another act of generosity you can do to brighten someone’s day. The Reading Elementary School and the PTO are looking for donations of kid-sized, waterproof winter clothes—snow pants, mittens, hats, ski apparel, helmets, even snowshoes. If your children have outgrown their gear, consider donating it for this cause. The clothing will be used by kids who are not in the ski runners program so they can go out and enjoy the winter months in warmth and comfort. If you have questions, contact Reading PTO at email@example.com.
That’s the news from Reading. See you next week!