350. Three hundred and fifty.
That’s the number of not-for-profit, charitable organizations in Door County. With a population of less than 30,000 people, that’s pretty good. There are people here who are passionate about the arts, about the preservation of bird sanctuaries, about literacy, about feeding the hungry. I’m glad to be in a place where people are philanthropic, where people give their time and their expertise and their money in order to enrich the lives of others in the community.
Last weekend was a clear example of this.
On Saturday we became familiar with the efforts of Friends of Plum and Pilot Island, or FOPPI.
Just off the tip of the peninsula there’s a beautiful island that’s been pretty much off- limits to the public. However, because of the concerted efforts of a few very dedicated people, this might be changing.
A special tour boat delivered us to Plum Island where for several hours we met the volunteers who have begun to raise awareness of the island’s value.. They are working to clear paths and build benches and inventory the birds and flowers. They are scraping paint on the structures and repairing the dock. They are making plans to restore the incredibly valuable historical buildings on the island: the lighthouse that for over a hundred years housed two families of lighthouse keepers, and the life saving station that at one time housed twenty men and their families. There’s also a boat house, a tall range light, and a huge shed that housed the loudest foghorn on the Great Lakes.
The volunteers were great. They love the place, and it’s easy to see why: the history, the beauty, the lighthouses. We were even allowed to climb the winding, narrow stairs for a view from the top of the channel light.
After a day on the island, it was tempting to want to join in on these efforts. The buildings have been abandoned for years; there is a lot to be done. We could help, we thought. We, too, could scrape paint, count wildflowers, haul rocks, write flyers, give money. (And in fact, we still may.) At the very least we will admire and praise those volunteers and tell everyone we know that Plum Island is wonderful.
But then, of course, there was Sunday.
Sunday was Write on Door County’s Open House. I love this organization. I believe in its goal to nurture writers of all ages and all levels. So over the past year I’ve plunged in pretty deep. I’ve taught and taken classes, written text for catalogs, cleaned the lodging where writers can come and stay in order to write. I’m on the board, and we spend hours discussing ideas and making plans to help this organization grow. So on Sunday, I roped Dave in, and we spent most of the day there, carrying tables, setting up tents, arranging displays, talking to authors, reading to children. I love the people of this organization, and the goals are goals I believe in. It was time well spent, but it was still time spent.
The list goes on, of course. There are 348 more organizations that are doing worthy things. Part of settling in is figuring out where to put our energies, to give our time.
One fear I had about retirement was how easily retired life could degenerate into self indulgence. But here, there are good role models. There are hundreds of good people working for good causes who are happy to have our help. So we’ll watch and we’ll learn and we’ll make decisions. And we’ll take boat trips to islands and read books to children in fields full of daisies and be glad.