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Explaining the Sunshine Initiative

Why the Sunshine Initiative is Important!

Jay shares the story of the Sunshine Initiative. How it started, where we are headed and why it is so very important.

Every once in a while, it’s important to take a step back and provide context. To explain what we are doing and why. As many of you know, the Sunshine Initiative is all about helping to revitalize our small towns and communities throughout New Hampshire and ultimately across our nation – committed to helping every individual in our country, and later around the world, fulfill their full potential. But, how did it start and where are we in that journey today?

Well, it started in my hometown of Newport, New Hampshire more than three years ago. Newport is a wonderful community of 6500 people located in the western part of the state. it’s where I grew up – with a ‘Norman Rockwell’ main street and a thriving economy. A close knit, supportive community flourishing with opportunities.

However, like so many other towns across our nation, Newport has suffered a long slow economic decline over the past 30-40 years, and in a sense has been left behind. Vacant storefronts on the main street, loss of jobs and an increase in opioids and substance abuse. Clearly in need of revitalization.

So, we started. Karen and I, in partnership with dedicated Newporter’s. And, today, three years later, Newport is on the move! New businesses in town, 75+ new jobs, $1 million+ renovation at our beautiful Opera House on the main street, a robotics program in our high school, new sidewalks in process, and our town newspaper reborn as well as a new community dog park on the way. Clearly, the human spirit is awakened, and there is positivity, growth and excitement in the air.

While there will always be more work to do in Newport, we believe we are ‘on to something.’ As a byproduct of our initial efforts, we have now developed ‘Best Practices’ and a ‘Playbook’ that can be shared with other communities. And, that is precisely what we are doing. Beginning to share our approach with other ‘Newport’s.’ Knowing of course that each one will have its own unique elements and will need to be led by committed citizens of each local community. And, while this is true, importantly, the Sunshine Initiative can provide the roadmap, help guide the process and lend support and ‘know how.’ In essence, be the spark and catalyst for revitalization.

With this in mind, we have just kicked off three more communities in New Hampshire. All wonderful towns that flourished in the past, then ran into tough times, but have the potential for an exciting rebirth. These include Laconia, in the Lakes Region; Rochester more towards the coast and a portion of Manchester known as the West Side. We are being met with great enthusiasm and receptivity. The truth is that virtually everyone wants to be proud of their community and want it to succeed. They are also very willing to pitch in and help. However, as just one person – to take on a major community revitalization by yourself is a daunting task. So, the Sunshine Initiative provides a unifying effort – where people can participate, revitalize their community and make a real difference.

While we realize that we are still in the early days of this effort, and there is much work to be done, our mission truly is to revitalize the small towns and communities throughout our great nation. I believe that for our country to be strong, we need to have small towns and communities that are strong. The backbone of America - thriving, economically sustainable and supportive of our core values. Committed to helping every individual – no matter where they live – to have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

So, as we expand now to a total of four communities, we can take pride in our progress. However, it is only a beginning. We see a future where the Sunshine Initiative is active and helping 1,000+ communities across America. We are on an exciting, transformative journey. We invite you to stay tuned, track our progress – and if you’d like, join in and help us in our mission.

Thank you!

Cathedral of the Pines

Located in Rindge, New Hampshire, the Cathedral of the Pines is an open-air gathering space for meditation, explorations, and weddings. Its beauty is only matched by the incredible story of its founding.

The property was purchased in 1937 by Sibyl and Douglas Sloane who were looking for a new home within driving distance of Newtonville, MA. When New Hampshire was proposed, Douglas was initially against it, fearing the drive would be too far as the only parts of New Hampshire he knew were the White Mountains. Little did he know that New Hampshire’s beauty and mountains extend well into the southern part of the state, much closer to his home than the famed White Mountain range.

The Sloane’s had big plans for the 250+ acre property after its purchase including allowing their children to build their own homes on different parts of the landscape. Plots were devised for the Sloane’s four children including their two sons Sandy and Jack whose fate would dictate the property’s future. (Stay tuned below) In 1938, a hurricane came through and blew down many trees along their ridgeline revealing a spectacular view. This same plot was where Sandy was to build his future home.

Construction would have to wait though as both Sandy and Jack enlisted into the US Army in World War II, working in bombers. Jack would come back from the fighting, but Sandy would not. The Sloane’s held a memorial for Sandy, the first memorial service in the clearing and from that point forward it would become the site for many New Hampshire families’ most intimate moments.

Today, the Cathedral of the Pines continues to serve as a memorial to all of America’s war heroes, both military and civilian. If you are ever in Rindge, I highly recommend a visit, and taking a moment to reflect and contemplate the sacrifice many have made for our country and of course, enjoy the majestic view.

The Rich History of Veterans Day

This year Veteran’s Day parades will be back after the hiatus due the COVID pandemic. Communities large and small will come together to honor those who served. In New York City, veterans from every branch of military service will parade alongside floats and marching bands down 5th Avenue for the 102nd Veterans Day celebration parade. In the Granite State, communities like Manchester will salute those who served with events such as the parade down Elm Street and the moment of silence at Veterans Park. So many amazing opportunities all in one day to thank those who served. But the question is, what is the history behind Veterans Day? We all know why it’s so important but what actually transpired to make this day a reality?

The answer dates back to World War I. The Great War ended in June of 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles but fighting actually ended months prior to the signing of the treaty. An armistice between the Allied forces and the Germans went into effect on November 11, 1918 at 11am. This is where Veterans Day first began. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day. The communities across America were asked to cease all operations on the 11th hour of November 11th to pay respect to those who fought in the Great War. The power and meaning of the date is why we always celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th. But it wasn’t till 1938, that Armistice Day became a legal holiday in the United States and in 1954, the day was changed to Veterans Day to recognize and honor all American Veterans of all Wars.

In that same year, President Dwight Eisenhower, a veteran himself issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation. Included in the proclamation are these powerful words “In order to ensure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.

While our country is young compared to many other nations, our history is rich, and we honor those who defend our freedom, day in and day out. So, let’s all unite and express our gratitude on this special day each year, Veterans Day. Then, let’s continue to show our gratitude every other day of the year as well.

Positive Profile of the Week: Alex Walker - Honor, Courage, and Commitment

The expansion of the Sunshine Initiative into additional communities across New Hampshire has given me the opportunity to get to know and appreciate so many of our state’s community leaders. These individuals are working tirelessly to make a difference in the place we call home. This week I am honored to profile an outstanding leader - Catholic Medical Center CEO and President Alex Walker of Manchester, NH.

To recognize Alex this week as we commemorate Veterans Day could not be more-timely. Alex proudly defended our freedoms as a member of the United States Marine Corp. It’s why I put the words Honor, Courage, and Commitment next to his name in the header. Those three words are the core values of the Marine Corp and something people see in Alex every day.

After his service, Alex pursued a legal career where he would serve as President of well-known New Hampshire law firm Devine Millimet & Branch. Under his leadership, the firm expanded, with Alex receiving recognition for his outstanding service to the firm, and for giving back to the community. Alex regularly leads by example, serving on several boards, including the Palace Theatre, the United Way, the New Hampshire Bar Association Board of Governors, and the Chamber of Commerce, along with his support of numerous charitable causes.

In 2012, Alex joined Catholic Medical Center as Legal Counsel, subsequently also becoming Senior Vice President where he proudly served under Dr. Joseph Pepe. When Dr. Pepe retired as President and CEO, those involved in the decision process knew Alex was the right fit to lead the hospital and its nearly 4,000 employees.

Alex and his wife Lisa reside close by the CMC and have raised two amazing children. Alex is truly committed to his community and the personification of the Marine Corps values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. We in the Granite State are blessed to have his leadership.

Positive Quotes of the Week: Sunshine

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”

Walt Whitman

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

Anthony J. D'Angelo

“Sunshine is a welcome thing. It brings a lot of brightness.”

Jimmie Davis

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Decide that no matter what is happening around you, the sun will always be shining in your world.”

Russell Simmons


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