SAXTONS RIVER, Vt. – In 2002, Vermont resident Charlie Williams passed away and left a huge hole in his large family and in the community. Through the years, his family has sought a meaningful way to remember him, and to honor the fact that he loved the Village of Saxtons River so much. He was an active community member, in a quiet way, contributing labor with no fanfare to local causes such as the Saxtons River Recreation Area and the local soccer/baseball fields there. In 2016, a member of his family heard about a holiday practice called “The White Envelope.”
In short, this idea started decades ago when a woman’s husband disliked Christmas. She noticed that a local student wrestling team had no safety helmets or good equipment for their team, and lost every match. She went to a local sporting goods store and bought the equipment they needed, and anonymously donated it to the team. Then she wrote up what she had done, and put it in a white envelope pinned to the Christmas tree that year. When her husband opened and read aloud the description of the gift for the family to hear, he was deeply touched. Christmas took on a new and beautiful meaning for him. Each year following, the woman anonymously gave to a different cause that she knew her husband would appreciate. After he passed away, his children, on their own, continued the tradition each year in his honor.
Charlie Williams’ family decided to do a version of this practice in honor/memory of their father and have done so since 2016. Family members pool their donations, giving what they can, and a small group of family members chooses the local charity that will be the recipient each year. Past recipients have included the Saxtons River Elementary School Winter Sports Program, the Saxtons River Fire Department Building Fund, and The Village Early Learning Center.
This year, the family has made a $1000 donation to the 24 Main Free Pantry on Main Street in Saxtons River. The pantry provides a 24/7, accessible food shelf for neighbors facing food insecurity. Community members place food, hygiene, or paper items in the pantry as they can, and people in need can help themselves at any time.
The Saxtons River 24 Main Free Pantry was established in 2021 by Berta Martin, a Saxtons River resident and teacher in the local school system. Martin loved the way that pantries such as these could provide an uncomplicated, Covid-safe way to help local families: open all the time, neighbors helping neighbors, meaningful, simple, and anonymous. With the support of the board of the 24 Main Community Building, the pantry was installed on Main Street in Saxtons River in Aug. of 2021.
The Williams family explored local options and needs for their 2022 holiday ‘White Envelope’ donation, and chose the 24 Main Free Pantry as this year’s recipient. The Williams’ are truly an inspiration of community support for the Village of Saxtons River. Most importantly, they are an inspiration for the true spirit of the winter holidays, giving what they can out of love for their father, and in honor of his deep connection to this special Vermont community.
Photo caption : Pictured here, in front of the 24 Main Free Pantry in Saxtons River 12/21/22, left to right: Lisa Higgins, Roy Williams, Berta Martin, Christine Williams, Sheradia Sleeper, Millie Williams. Photo provided.