Column – Tip of the hat to Isle of Wight’s volunteers

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Labor Day salutes the American worker, God bless them all, especially in this era when record numbers of people are choosing not to work.

But on this particular Labor Day, my thoughts were on those who work for their community. If people are unwilling to work even for a paycheck, it’s no surprise that volunteerism is in even deeper distress. People who serve their community and fellow man with no expectation of compensation or recognition might be fewer in number, but Isle of Wight is blessed with its share.

Look no further than the pages of this newspaper every week for fresh reminders.

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This week’s edition, like most we publish, spotlights the work of civic organizations from Rotary to Kiwanis to Ruritan, whose membership rolls are much shorter than 50 years ago but who soldier on in both traditional and creative, new ways.

Lots of emphasis is put on back-to-school supplies and clothes, but underrated at the start of a new school year is a clean, fresh haircut to put a kid in the right mindset for learning. The Rotary Club of Smithfield teamed up with Fuzion’s Salon, located within the new Main Street jewel Hamtown Mercantile, Q-Daddy’s Barbecue, Christian Outreach Program and the Luter YMCA to provide back-to-school haircuts, school supplies and food coupons for more than 50 underprivileged children.

Elsewhere in this edition, we learn that the cherished Sundays at Four concert series is fully back from COVID-19 disruption, and it won’t surprise anyone reading this that Mary Cole continues to be the driving force behind its success. Classical music is alive and well in this community because Mary and the Isle of Wight Arts League won’t let it die.

Speaking of the Arts League, the Downtown Smithfield Summer Concert Series wrapped up another successful run Friday night with a season-high crowd of nearly 500 packing Times Square to see Clay and Nancy Griffin fronting hometown favorite Griffin Lane. Only John Edwards, who with unwavering support from wife, Anne, built the concert series over the decades, could provide this fun tidbit of local trivia: The Griffins were the first to perform on the gazebo stage in 1996 and ushered it out 26 years later; the Town of Smithfield will build a new, higher-tech stage there this winter in time for next summer’s concerts.

If you were skeptical about the future of the Summer Concert Series when John Edwards, its heart and soul, passed the baton last fall, I don’t blame you. As one of the handful of people responsible for its continuation, I too had concerns.

Shame on any of us for doubting the success of anything connected with the indefatigable Elaine Dairo, who proved to be just the cajoler, promoter and taskmaster that such an undertaking requires of its leader.

An Isle of Wight County School Board member last year shamefully disparaged so-called outsiders, which presumably covers all of us in the roughly half of the population who weren’t born here. Dairo is in that number, a New Jerseyan/New Yorker who, like many before her, came to town with her spouse, a Smithfield Foods executive.

She’s a volunteer extraordinaire, enriching this community with selfless service to the Summer Concert Series and beyond.


Steve Stewart is publisher of The Smithfield Times. His email address is