When the Rotary Club of Wolfeboro needed help with its annual Christmas tree fundraiser, someone said, “Call Brewster.” Faculty member and community service director Maria Found got the call—and knew just what to do. T.J. Palmer, the coach of the rec ski team, had recently asked Found for ways his group might get more involved in local service projects. Forty of his skiers went out right away to help; they made short work of unloading and tagging hundreds of trees—and bonded over the experience of having helped out in a time of need.
“Most of our community service isn’t based on providing some service and then moving on like that,” Found said later. “Most of what we do involves building relationships and providing ongoing service over time. But it’s a good example of how people in the area—and even across the state—have recognized what we do here and come to us.”
Found has been on the faculty at Brewster for a quarter-century and has been a driving force behind the school’s blossoming reputation for community service. She passionately believes that the experience of helping others makes people more empathetic and more caring human beings. “It changes who you are,” she says.
At Brewster, Found discovered that planting the seed of community service in students’ minds would bear fruit if the service were fun, and if students were properly supported in coming together and figuring out how to provide the service on their own. Over time, one club after another has formed to address different needs. A “Brewster Big Friends” group provides child care and creates activities for children of faculty and local families—and learns lessons of leadership, collaboration, and responsibility in the process. A “Best Buddies” group pairs Brewster students with intellectually and developmentally disabled athletes from area schools, organizing unified games, co-hosting a “Miss Amazing” pageant in partnership with the University of New Hampshire’s Autism Speaks organization, and volunteering at nearby King Pine Ski Area in an adaptive skiing program. National Honor Society members adapted an NHS idea into a “Cyber Seniors” program that helps residents of a nearby retirement home learn how to use iPhones, set up Facebook accounts, and stay in digital touch with their grandchildren. Students have become part of an international initiative called “Girls on the Run,” delivering a ten-week curriculum on campus for area girls based on nutrition, exercise, social awareness, and healthy decision making.
Brewster is developing a partnership with Hope House, a new transitional housing program in town, and will be offering reading and math programs for children living in the shelter. There are a dozen other examples. The work helps develop character and life skills. It deepens the relationship between Brewster Academy and the larger communities we are a part of.