The power of a small community

Community activism and involvement are needed on Vashon, year-round.

Several articles in this week’s Beachcomber speak to the power of community action, and the benefits of being small, but noisy.

Last week, an AmeriGas executive showed up at a public meeting called by three islanders to organize the community’s response to Vashon’s issues with the company — problems that have resulted in dangerous instances of people enduring long stretches without heat in bitterly cold weather.

These kinds of serious problems aren’t unique to Vashon — AmeriGas has dissatisfied customers throughout the country. But Vashon — whose mascot should probably be not a pirate, but rather, a tiny, barking chihuahua, somehow got the company’s attention.

The executive, Robert Davis, said he had driven from Portland to attend the meeting because he had heard there had been a recent article in our town’s newspaper about islanders’ unhappiness with the company.

Davis wasn’t exactly right — all that had appeared in the Dec. 29 issue of The Beachcomber had been a page 1 “Happening,” crafted by the meeting’s organizers, announcing the purpose of the gathering and providing an email address for islanders to find out more and send documentation of their woes with the company.

But there’s an article now — because Davis made news when he promised to do all he could to help solve islanders’ problem with the company.

“I can’t fix the whole company, but what I can do is to say ‘look, these are the challenges we face … and here’s how we’re going to serve you better,’” he told the crowd who had gathered for the meeting.

Davis said he had already helped Vashon with the simple step of replacing one of the company’s two trucks on the island, and he also pledged to hire another driver, when needed, to deliver propane on the island.

He also said he would personally ensure that propane was delivered to the island, and stay in touch with the meeting’s organizers to make sure that service improved.

Davis is to be commended for showing up and for his pledge to take action, but even more deserving of praise are the islanders who have rallied other islanders to take collective action.

One of the organizers, Joan Wortis — a longtime island artist revered by the community — told the crowd that she had made her first-ever post on the Facebook page, Vashon For All, to discuss her problems with AmeriGas, and call the community to action.

Sometimes, on our small island, a little bit of organizing can go a long way, and we hope that this is the case with Vashon’s AmeriGas woes. We’ll keep you posted.

Another article in this week’s paper (see page 5) also highlights islanders’ willingness to step up and serve, briefly profiling four applicants for an open school board position.

In responding to The Beachcomber’s request for information about why they had applied for the post, this diverse group of applicants shared their passion for community and education, and their willingness to do the hard work of representing islanders’ and students’ interests in a leadership position.

One of these islanders will be chosen at the school district’s next board meeting, on Jan. 12.

Serving on the school board is a serious commitment of time and effort and energy, and we commend those who have stepped forward. And again, we’ll keep covering the school board — it’s one of our beats here at the paper.

More sadly, this week The Beachcomber also chronicles the sentencing of Michael Henderson, after his guilty plea to the felony charge of vehicular homicide in connection with the death of Nathan Dorn, Jr. last year — a senseless crime that broke hearts on Vashon and forever changed the lives of Dorn’s family members and friends.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending, but it is still possible that it could inspire positive change in the community, by bringing home a visceral reminder of the horrible and tragic consequences of drinking and driving.

This is “dry January” — a social-media-fueled challenge to curtail alcohol consumption during the first month of the year.

But dry January doesn’t really even begin to address the truly hard work of solving the social ills of addiction and alcoholism, which plague Vashon as much as any other place. Here too, community activism and involvement are needed on Vashon, year-round.