My Turn: Neighbors helping neighbors at its finest in Webster
It all started on Sunday morning, May 4, when Bobby Drown of Webster suddenly felt ill and had to be rushed to the emergency room.
Drown is a big, strapping dairy farmer and not used to succumbing to aches and pains, but always pressing on. This was serious and ended up being undiagnosed diabetes, which led to pancreatitis. The toxins permeated his body and gradually all of his organs starting shutting down. He was in the intensive care unit for more than a week. Emergency bile duct surgery got some of the toxins flowing out of his body and very slowly he started coming around again.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, there were cows to milk, corn to plant, hay to cut, etc., for the 80-head dairy. Employees, relatives and neighbors pitched in to get the work done. As the fields were prepared for planting, Drown’s 80 year-old father, Robert, mounted the big tractor and planted the corn. So things continued on.
There was still the concerns about Drown’s hospital stay and making up the difference on the health insurance coverage for his extended hospital stay, which now had stretched over four weeks.
Rob Wolenski, Webster’s fire chief, came up with the idea of a chicken barbecue at the Webster Fire Station and collaborated with Jake Drown, Bobby Drown’s son, and also a member of the department. Soon plans were under way for people to set up the firehouse for a dining room, get volunteers to make salads and desserts, traffic control, publicity, and a myriad of details. Drown’s sister, Beverly Clark, spearheaded the raffle and collected donated items from local businesses.
It wasn’t hard to find people who wanted to help out Drown. He is very much part of the community in Webster. He served on the volunteer fire crew and as a part-time policeman, and also serves on the zoning board and the agricultural commission, and is an active member of the farm bureau. He is the type of guy who would use his tractor loader to clear snow from a neighbor’s driveway, buzz up a load of wood for someone who was running out or pull a car out of a ditch.
The barbecue organizers settled on 300 servings of chicken and publicized the June 7 event on farm web sites and town bulletin boards. Soon after 4 p.m., the cars started rolling into the yard of the Webster Fire Department on Route 127. There were orange cones in the median, people directing traffic and lines of cars parked along the roadside.
Inside the firehouse there were tables of raffle items, a fireman’s boot for donations, and food flying in all directions as mobs of people bought their dinners and sat around tables with neighbors in the firehouse. A dedicated volunteer crew at the pit cooked the chickens as others worked on the food line.
Jake Drown stood in amazement as he saw the successful event unfold. His biggest concern was whether they had planned enough food, and eventually they had to run out for more chicken halves. He heard story after story about his dad and the special things he had done, and now people were returning the favor.
When the day was done, more than 400 people had been served, and family members were so appreciative of the outpouring of support. Drown is still in the hospital and hopes to move to rehab in another week. What a great example of neighbors helping neighbors.
If anyone wants to help out, they can make checks payable to the Webster Fireman’s Relief Association, c/o Bobby Drown, and mail them to the Webster Fire Department, 851 Battle St., Webster, NH 03303.
(John C. Porter lives in Boscawen and is professor/specialist emeritus of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.)